Report: Turkey marks one year without Wikipedia

As of Sunday, Wikipedia has been banned in Turkey for one year, Paul Benjamin Osterlund wrote for The Verge, saying, “Authorities said the ban was instituted when Wikipedia declined to take down content alleging that Turkey had provided support for terrorist groups.”

“When the Turkish government suddenly banned Wikipedia in late April last year, it came as little surprise to many people in the country. Access to platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp have been periodically restricted in Turkey numerous times since 2014, particularly after tumultuous events like mass demonstrations, suicide bomb attacks, or the failed coup attempt in July 2016. What’s strange is that the ban stayed. As of this Sunday, Wikipedia has been blocked in the country for a full year,” said Osterlund.

The Wikimedia Foundation has been lobbying to restore access in the country. “We have asked Turkish courts to review the block, and have engaged in a series of discussions with Turkish authorities,” Samantha Lien, the Wikimedia Foundation’s communications manager, told The Verge. She added that the company’s appeal has been under review at the Constitutional Court of Turkey for close to a year.

Lien said their traffic from Turkey is down 90 percent since the ban, which is the most comprehensive ban on the collaborative encyclopedia of any country in the world, adding that even China permits access to non-Chinese language versions of the site.

“Since the ban, all language versions of the site have been inaccessible to Turkish IP addresses; a screen saying that the browser cannot make a secure connection to the server comes up when trying to reach the site,” Osterlund reported.

“The Wikipedia block is certainly part of a wider trend toward control of information online in Turkey. You have to look at the impact: 365 days without access to the world’s largest information resource and the ability to amend or correct information held within that resource,” Alp Toker of digital rights group Turkey Blocks told The Verge.

The Verge reminded that the ban followed a crackdown that escalated after a July 2016 coup attempt. Since then, over 150 media outlets have been shut down by the government, and only a few critical newspapers and channels remain.

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seeks to maintain his tight grip on power, he has also worked to curtail Internet freedom in Turkey. “The country had one of the three largest declines in our index last year due to the repeated suspension of telecommunications networks and social media access, as well as sweeping arrests for political speech online,” Adrian Shahbaz, research manager for Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net, told The Verge.

“Turkey’s year-long ban on Wikipedia reflects the lengths the government will go to censor unfavorable news. Time after time, Turkish courts and administrative agencies have taken unnecessary and disproportionate steps to curtail the fundamental rights of Turkish citizens,” Shahbaz said.

The Verge added that all Wikipedia can do is attempt to generate public interest about its plight in Turkey. In March, it unveiled the #WeMissTurkey campaign, where the site shared Turkish history and culture-related content on its Twitter account and collaborated with Turkish artists to create posters featuring the phrase.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 253 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 1, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 191 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down about 200 media outlets after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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