Turkey ends Wikipedia blackout after nearly 3 years

Jan. 16 (UPI) — After a blackout that lasted for nearly three years, the Turkish government restored public access to the information website Wikipedia on Thursday following a successful legal challenge.

The Wikimedia Foundation wrote in a blog post it had received reports that users in Turkey were once again able to access the user-written online encyclopedia for the first time since it was blocked by government officials in April 2017.

Ankara took action to block the site because Turkey was listed on the English language version of Wikipedia as a state that sponsors the Islamic State and al-Qaida terrorist groups.

Restoration of access to the site followed official publication on Wednesday of a court finding that the block violated freedom of expression guaranteed by the Turkish Constitution.

The court, Turkey’s highest for constitutional matters, overturned a lower court ruling last month that affirmed the government’s ban, which said Wikipedia had run a “smear campaign” by saying Turkey sponsored terrorism.

The Constitutional Court said its 33-page ruling is based on legal precedents regarding freedom of expression established by the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations.

The Wikimedia Foundation still has a case pending before the EU court, which granted it priority status last summer.

“We will continue to advocate for strong protections for free expression online in Turkey and around the world,” the group said.

“We are thrilled to be reunited with the people of Turkey,” added Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Katherine Maher. “We are committed to protecting everyone’s fundamental right to access information. We are excited to share this important moment with our Turkish contributor community on behalf of knowledge-seekers everywhere.”