Court rejects Wikipedia’s appeal over access ban, says freedom of expression can be ‘restricted’ in some cases
An Ankara court on May 5 rejected an appeal by Wikipedia against a previous ruling to block access to the website in Turkey, saying freedom of expression can be "restricted in some cases" and citing the country’s ongoing state of emergency.
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 pages stating that Ankara channeled support to jihadists in Syria.
The Wikimedia Foundation later appealed against the decision on the grounds that freedom of expression had been violated as the court blocked the entire platform even though the related content only appeared in two different pages.
However, the court board rejected the foundation’s appeal on May 5, citing a law that enables a broader access ban when a specific violation cannot be prevented.
“As can be understood from the mentioned legal texts, freedom of expression is not one of absolute rights. It may be restricted when conditions are suitable and in situations where moderateness is required,” the court stated in its ruling.
It also noted that Turkey was still under a state of emergency declared after the failed July 2016 military coup attempt, and its obligations based on the European Convention on Human Rights were temporarily suspended.
The court also stated that an access ban for only the two-pages was not technically possible as they were encrypted, justifying the ban on the whole platform.
BTK head Ömer Fatih Sayan had said on May 3 that it was impossible to grant access to the website unless Turkey’s judicial decisions are implemented.
Sayan added that the authorities were open to “any kind of cooperation” on the condition that Wikipedia’s administration abides by the law to implement judicial decisions so as to permit access.