Turkish high court rules gov’t Wikipedia ban unconstitutional

Turkey’s highest court ruled Thursday that a government ban on Wikipedia violated citizens’ rights and freedoms, overturning a lower court decision that said it was legal.

The ban violated principles of freedom of expression in Turkey, the court ruled. File Photo by Boris Roessler

The Constitutional Court said in a split 6-4 decision the ban violated principles of freedom of expression. Turkey’s First Criminal Court of Peace ruled Wikipedia entries that accuse Turkey of supporting terrorism were unfair and harmed “the reputation of the country.”

The Wikipedia ban had been in place since 2017.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales celebrated the court ruling, tweeting, “Welcome Back, Turkey.”

The government ban was also preceded by entries that said Turkey was involved in oil trading with the Islamic State and supported the terrorist organization. Turkish officials said the entries were false and demanded their removal.

Government officials later argued Wikipedia was part of a smear campaign when the website refused to take the entries down.

Wikipedia petitioned the Turkish courts and the European Court of Human Rights after the ban, saying it would only pursue action in the ECHR if it did not find relief in Turkey. The ECHR gave Ankara until Dec. 31 to justify the ban, calling it “unacceptable in a democratic society and not compatible with article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression.”

ByClyde Hughes