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Turkey's highest court rules Wikipedia ban violated freedom of expression

The Constitutional Court justices voted 10-6 in favour of Wikipedia [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 December, 2019

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Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that the country's decision to ban Wikipedia violated freedom of expression.
Turkey’s highest court on Thursday ruled in favour of Wikipedia, saying the Turkish government's two-year ban on the online encyclopaedia constitutes a violation of freedom of expression, state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017, accusing it of being part of a “smear campaign” against the country, after the website refused to remove content that allegedly portrayed Turkey as supporting the Islamic State group and made allegations of state-sponsored terrorism.

Access to Wikipedia and all its language editions was blocked under a law that allows the government to ban websites it deems as threats to national security.

Wikipedia declined to remove content from the community-generated site, citing its opposition to censorship. It petitioned the Constitutional Court in May 2017 after talks with Turkish officials and a challenge in lower courts failed.

The Constitutional Court decided the ban amounted to a violation of freedom of expression. The justices voted 10-6 in favour of Wikipedia, Anadolu reported.

There was no immediate comment from the government and it was not immediately clear when access to the website would be restored.

Many Turks have found ways to circumvent the ban on Wikipedia and other blocked websites.

Wikipedia had been blocked since 2007 [Getty]

Earlier this year the Wikipedia Foundation took Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the ban, arguing that by blocking the website it violated the right to freedom of expression.

The Constitutional Court voted by 10-6 that the ban violated freedom of speech.

Turkey remains a significant player in the conflict in Syria, and hosts some 3.7 million refugees and building a hotly contested “safe zone” along its north-eastern border.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, the ECHR gave the case against Turkey priority status.

“The case may also help set precedent for future decisions in the area of governments limiting access to information, and comes at a time when we’ve seen a rise in government censorship globally,” the foundation wrote.

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