Wikipedia Blocked In Turkey: Government Claims Website Is Running A 'Smear Campaign' Against The Country


The government of Turkey has blocked access to Wikipedia in all parts of the country after it undertook an administrative measure against the online encyclopedia.

Turkey, which now joins China as the countries that have banned Wikipedia, cited a law that allows it to ban websites that are considered obscene or a threat to national security.

Wikipedia Banned In Turkey

"After technical analysis and legal consideration ... an administrative measure has been taken for this website (Wikipedia.Org)," said telecommunications watchdog BTK in a statement posted online.

All the editions of Wikipedia in various languages were blocked in the country by 8 a.m. local time of April 29, with a monitoring group known as Turkey Blocks stating that the sudden unavailability of the website in the country resembles the internet filters that the government uses to censor online content from being accessed within Turkey.

Users within the country receive a "connection timed out" error when they try to access Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia, however, is still accessible through the use of a VPN.

According to the communications ministry of Turkey, Wikipedia was trying to run a "smear campaign" against the country. Some articles were said to have suggested that the Turkish government was coordinating with militant groups.

The country's authorities reportedly asked Wikipedia to remove the content that insinuated that Turkey was supporting terrorism. The website was subsequently blocked as the government never received a response from Wikipedia regarding the demands.

The ban against Wikipedia, however, is currently only temporary as it was made through a provisional order. For the block to become permanent, a full court ruling will need to be passed within two days, with BTK required to submit a formal document to the court within 24 hours of implementing the ban.

The Wikimedia Foundation said that it will do everything it can to make Wikipedia available in Turkey, adding that it will be pushing for a judicial review of the matter.

Turkey's Wikipedia Ban Heard Around The World

Turkey's move to block Wikipedia sent shockwaves around the world, specifically to the country's Western allies and international rights groups.

Ever since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has implemented stricter controls over both traditional and online forms of media in Turkey. The government has also since targeted dissidents, with 47,000 people arrested and more than 100,000 purged from their jobs for allegedly having connections to terrorist organizations.

Erdogan recently narrowly won an April 16 referendum that grants him increased powers. The matter, however, has largely divided the nation.

Groups have accused the Turkish government of curtailing basic rights such as freedom of speech. The block of Wikipedia raises another concern, as it rejects the fundamental right of access to information.

Blocked websites are common in Turkey, with such bans implemented at various times against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, particularly after the launch of terrorist attacks somewhere in the country. The government, however, has denied doing so, claiming that the inaccessibility of the websites is due to the usage spike after people log in to monitor the latest details on such events. Anti-government websites have also been rendered inaccessible.

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