LOCAL >Wikimedia Foundation appeals court ruling blocking Wikipedia in Turkey

Ahmet Can – ISTANBUL

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The Wikimedia Foundation has appealed a Turkish court decision to block access to the world’s largest encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in what is the first official step taken against the ruling that came after an administrative measure on the website.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) stated on April 29 that it had blocked access to Wikipedia, citing a law allowing it to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security.

The Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace later ordered the ban after Wikipedia’s administration refused to remove two English-language pages.

In its appeal filed by lawyer Gönenç Gürkaynak in the previous days, the foundation stated that the access ban was against freedom of expression, calling the decision “disproportionate” as it blocked the whole platform even though the related content only appeared on two Wikipedia versions in different languages.

The Wikimedia Foundation had previously voiced its concern on the ruling and urged the Turkish government to remove the block.

“We are deeply concerned by any suggestion that freely sharing the encyclopedia articles created by the worldwide volunteer editor community could be misconstrued as supporting a violent or hateful agenda. We believe there has been a misunderstanding. Wikipedia’s purpose is to share encyclopedic information with the world. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we unequivocally condemn and reject terrorism,” it stated.

Separately, Istanbul Municipality on May 2 withdrew an event invitation for Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia following the ban.

“It is respectfully announced to the public that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been removed from the invitee list for the ‘World Cities Expo’ event and the decision has been conveyed to him,” read a statement from the municipality’s press agency.

Wales told daily Hürriyet on May 1 that he had decided to not to cancel his visit to Turkey despite the ban.

“I am looking forward to the visit. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities,” he said.

Daily Habertürk reported on May 1 that the court ordered the ban after Wikipedia’s administration refused to remove two English-language pages claiming that Ankara channeled support to jihadists in Syria.

Quoting the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry, state-run Anadolu Agency said the site had been blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

In response to the ban, Wales voiced his support for those in Turkey who decry censorship.

“Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right,” Wales tweeted.


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