Free SpeechNews

Turkish Constitutional Court rules that Wikipedia ban violates free speech

Ankara – The Constitutional Court has ruled that a three-year long access ban on Wikipedia, considered as the largest online encyclopedia, is a violation of freedom of expression and ordered the ban to be removed.

Wikipedia was banned by Turkey’s Information Technologies and Communication Authority (BTK) on 29 April 2017 for refusing to remove content implying that the Turkish government has supported armed groups. The access ban, based on Article 8(A) of the Law no. 5651 on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of Such Publication, was issued by the Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace.

In a statement issued in January 2018, the BTK had said:“We have warned Wikipedia officially to remove content, which suggests that Turkey supports terrorist organizations, based on the warn-and-remove method in line with local and international law. Wikipedia did not respond, and as such we have had to issue an access ban on the website.”

The ban remained in place despite lawyers for Wikipedia objecting against the decision. The Wikimedia Foundation lodged an individual application with the Constitutional Court in 2017. The application stated that the right to freedom of expression is violated. Two other lawyers had also filed an objection.

The Constitutional Court which merged the three separate applications ruled that the ban violates applicants’ freedom of expression on 26 December. The decision was taken by a majority vote. The court submitted the decision to Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace for removal of violation.

Update to the story above: Wikipedia was opened on 15 January 2020, after the high court ruling was published in the Official Gazette.