The local telecommunications watchdog confirmed that Turkey has blocked online encyclopedia Wikipedia under the law that empowers it to ban access to websites deemed obscene or a threat to national security. Rights groups claimed that Turkey has sharply curtailed freedom of speech and other basic rights in the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup.
The BTK telecommunications watchdog has published a statement informing about an administrative measure being taken for Wikipedia.Org “after technical analysis and legal consideration.” According to Turkey’s Communications Ministry, Wikipedia was trying to run a “smear campaign” against the country, with some articles purporting that Turkey was coordinating with militant groups.
The ban would be lifted if Wikipedia met the government’s demands. According to the law, the telecommunications watchdog has to submit its ban to a court within 24 hours, after which the court has 2 days to decide whether the ban should be upheld. As a result, all language editions of the Wikipedia website have been banned since 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.
When Turkish ISPs’ subscribers attempt to access the Wikipedia, they receive a notice the site could not be reached and a “connection timed out” error, which is consistent with Internet filters used to censor content in Turkey.
In the meantime, monitoring groups have accused the country of blocking access to social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, especially in the aftermath of militant attacks. It should be mentioned that the government used to deny blocking access to some websites, explaining outages with spikes in usage after major events.
However, technical experts at watchdog groups believe that the blackouts on social media are intentional and aimed at stopping the spread of militant images and propaganda.
Since last year’s failed coup, Turkey has sacked or suspended over 120,000 people from the civil service, police, and judiciary. Besides, over 40,000 people have been arrested on suspicion of ties to terrorist groups. President Tayyip Erdogan claims the measures are needed taking into consideration the scope of the security threat Turkey faces. In 2016, the country jailed 81 journalists, making it the world’s top jailer of journalists.