Wikipedia ban: Top court calls for Turkey to lift block

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An error message for someone trying to access Wikipedia from Turkey

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the country’s block on accessing Wikipedia is unconstitutional.

The court said the ban violated rights concerning freedom of expression, and ordered it be lifted.

The Turkish government barred the website in 2017 because of entries suggesting Turkey had co-operated with jihadist militants in Syria.

Turkish censors have often temporarily blocked websites carrying content critical of the government.

The Wikipedia Foundation took Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in May over the ban, arguing that the blocking of the online encyclopaedia violated the right to freedom of expression.

Thursday’s ruling is a significant victory for the foundation, writes BBC Europe regional editor Danny Aeberhard.

What are the wider implications of the ruling?

The Constitutional Court voted by 10-6 that the ban violated freedom of speech.

It is expected that the authorities will lift it accordingly.

Turkey imposed the ban after articles on Wikipedia suggested it had co-operated with the Islamic State group and others, and made allegations of state-sponsored terrorism.

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country is a key foreign player in the conflict in neighbouring Syria, hosting 3.7 million refugees and building a controversial “safe zone” along its north-eastern border.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, the ECHR has given its case against Turkey priority status.

“The case may also help set precedent for future decisions in the area of governments limiting access to information, and comes at a time when we’ve seen a rise in government censorship online globally,” the foundation wrote.

Turkey figures towards the bottom of a global index for media freedom put together by the organisation Reporters Without Borders, which rates it at 157 out of 180 countries.

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