Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled 10-6 on Thursday that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government violated civil liberties with its April 2017 ban on access to Wikipedia, the Associated Press reports.
The Turkish government called Wikipedia part of a “smear campaign” against it and accused the website of suggesting that it supported al-Qaeda when issuing the ban, citing authority under a law that allows it to restrict access to sites dubbed obscene or national security threats. Haaretz reported that the incident revealed a “fundamental misunderstanding by Turkish leaders of how Wikipedia works,” with officials particularly enraged by articles suggesting Turkey had links to al-Qaeda and ISIS, examining leaked emails from Erdogan’s son-in-law, and calling Erdogan a “benevolent dictator.” According to the AP, Wikipedia refused to remove content and appealed to the Constitutional Court when a lower court ruled in the government’s favour, with Anadolu Agency writing that the ruling found the ban was a violation of freedom of expression.
Per the Guardian, the revocation of the ban is ordered to commence immediately, though the government issued no comment and it remained unclear how quickly it would follow through. (Hurriyet reported it was “expected” to comply.) The paper noted that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found in favour of Wikipedia in May 2019, but Erdogan’s government in Ankara has mostly chosen to pay fines rather than comply with ECHR rulings.
Some 127,000 websites and 95,000 “individual web pages” are currently blocked under the auspices of the law, the Guardian wrote, and the Turkish government regularly restricts access to social media sites in the wake of demonstrations or violence. It also ranks second behind China in imprisoning journalists.