Turkish court rejects appeal against Wikipedia access ban

An Ankara court on Friday rejected an appeal by the Wikimedia Foundation for the removal of a ban in Turkey on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual, educational content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge.

The Wikimedia Foundation claimed that the ban on the online encyclopedia was a violation of the right to information. The Ankara 1st Penal Court of Peace, however, turned down the appeal of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia last Saturday, through a court measure used to block access to pages or entire websites to protect “national security and public order.” The Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK) said an Ankara court ordered that a “protection measure” related to suspected Internet crimes be applied to Wikipedia.

Ömer Fatih Sayan, the head of BTK, said on Wednesday that it is impossible to grant access to the Wikipedia, unless Turkey’s judicial decisions are implemented. “No one has the right to say, ‘I do not recognize the Turkish courts,’” Sayan said, while expressing his sadness over the access ban. Sayan, who is also a brother of Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, said authorities were open to any kind of cooperation on condition that the website administration abide by the law to implement judicial decisions so as to permit access. “Freedom of expression is not one-sided. Information must be right and should not be distorted,” he said.

The BTK stated on Saturday 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 the Wikipedia administration reportedly refused to remove two English-language pages claiming that Ankara channeled support to jihadists in Syria.

In response, the Wikimedia Foundation appealed the court ruling that came after the administrative measure on the website. It also stated that the access ban was “disproportionate” and against freedom of expression. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted his support for those who labeled the decision censorship of social media: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

However, quoting the Turkey’s Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry, state-run Anadolu news 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.”

Following the ban, İstanbul Municipality also withdrew an event invitation for Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia. The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality has taken the name of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales from the invitee list of an event that will take place in İstanbul after Turkey blocked access to the online encyclopedia on Tuesday. (SCF turkishminute.com) May 5, 2017

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