In shadow of false charges against Turkey: Wikipedia

Turkey disabled Wikipedia to protect image of state, expert says, while country removes ban after 3 years

Dilara Hamit   | 25.01.2020
In shadow of false charges against Turkey: Wikipedia


Turkey has disabled Wikipedia because it is obligated to protect its image of state, therefore has the right to impose sanctions against any negative behavior, according to an expert.

Wikipedia was blocked on April 29, 2017, due to articles and comments that Ankara believes falsely linked Turkey to various terrorist groups, according to the Communications Ministry.

Deniz Unay, a social media specialist, told Anadolu Agency that this process started with the controversy on the Syrian civil war, when Wikipedia's English site published the infamous "Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War” and showed Turkey as the most effective cause of the outbreak of the civil war in Syria.

On January 15, a court in Turkey's capital Ankara ruled to lift a ban on Wikipedia, after a decision by the country's top court that the block breached freedom of expression.

A lower criminal court had blocked the website in 2017 due to articles and comments alleging Turkey was aligned with various terrorist groups. The Constitutional Court said that though access to the content on Wikipedia had been denied, almost all the referenced sources remained accessible. It stressed that due to its open structure, Wikipedia articles could include subjective information and be used for malignant intent.

The Constitutional Court based its ruling on decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, European Council and UN about freedom of internet and expression. It underlined that Wikipedia had millions of users and helped all in their ability to access information.

Wikipedia's volunteer editors have changed or removed several articles including information about Turkey after it was blocked in the country, it further noted. The ruling also said that Turkey's courts had not initiated any investigations or hearings on the writers of the controversial information, for which the website was blocked.

It concluded that administrative and judicial authorities had not been able to demonstrate that the restriction on accessing the website was justified. The court added: "For these reasons, it was concluded that the decision to block access to the Wikipedia website did not comply with the requirements of the democratic social order."

Six members of the Constitutional Court had voted against the decision.

Unay, for his part, said that the competent authorities indicated that as a victim of terror and terrorism, Turkey has been struggling for years and that the state can never be shown in the form of aid or standing side by side with a terrorist organization and asked the website to remove the content.

"However Wikipedia did not take any steps on this content and warnings did not result in agreement until now," he said.

"France threatened imprisoning the author for an article in 2013 on CDRI, the intelligence agency, and removed it from Wikipedia," he said. "Iran kept the Kurdish page closed for a long time, and censored hundreds of articles on opposition and religious minorities."

He also added that Russia had blocked Wikipedia access because of two cannabis-related items adding that countries do not remain indifferent to attacks on their own policies or values.

"The process in the attitude of Wikipedia rather than the attitude of Turkey is important because the issue actually could have been resolved in the early days if Wikipedia had stepped on matters required to be amended or withdrawn problems," Unay said.

He noted that both YouTube and Twitter had faced some sanctions, and both social media platforms quickly made the necessary changes and both sides were satisfied.

According to July 2019 statistics, there are more than 1 million registered users in Turkey, around 1.6 million pages in Turkish and around 330,000 articles in Turkish on Wikipedia.

In 2007, Wikipedia exceeded 2 million articles and became the world's largest encyclopedia. Per 2017 stats, the website is the world's fifth most visited website, with over 400 million unique visitors monthly.

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