The Wikimedia Foundation Asks The European Court Of Human Rights To Rule Against Turkey's Two-Year Block Of All Wikipedia Versions

from the probably-won't-do-much,-but-should-annoy-Gollum dept

As numerous Techdirt stories attest, the Turkish authorities -- and the country's notoriously thin-skinned President, Recep Erdogan -- are unwilling to accept even the slightest criticism of their actions, from any quarter. That has led to huge numbers of Turkish citizens being thrown in prison on the flimsiest pretexts, as well as many Internet sites being blocked in a similarly arbitrary way. Perhaps the most significant digital victim of Turkey's paranoia is Wikipedia. In April 2017, every language version of the site was blocked under a law that allows the authorities to ban access to Web sites deemed "obscene or a threat to national security". According to The Atlantic, Wikipedia was blocked because it refused to take down an article that claimed Turkey was "aligned with various terrorist organizations".

For the last two years, all Wikipedia sites have remained blocked in Turkey. Now, the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia, has had enough:

Today, we proceed to the European Court of Human Rights, an international court which hears cases of human rights violations within the Council of Europe, to ask the Court to lift the more than two-year block of Wikipedia in Turkey. We are taking this action as part of our continued commitment to knowledge and freedom of expression as fundamental rights for every person.

This is not a step we have taken lightly; we are doing so only after continued and exhaustive attempts to lift the block through legal action in the Turkish courts, good faith conversations with the Turkish authorities, and campaigns to raise awareness of the block and its impact on Turkey and the rest of the world.

The Wikimedia Foundation says that the block was applied because of two articles, not one, but gives no details. In its application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) -- not to be confused with the better-known Court of Justice of the European Union -- it argues:

the blanket ban of Wikipedia violates fundamental freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention. Moreover, these freedoms have been denied to the more than 80 million people of Turkey who have been impacted most directly by the block, and to the rest of the world, which has lost the nation's rich perspectives in contributing, debating, and adding to Wikipedia's more than 50 million articles.

Even if the Wikimedia Foundation wins its case, there is not much that the ECHR can do to force Turkey to comply with a decision that the block should be lifted. It's true that Turkey is a long-standing party to the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf), and that the fundamental rights provided by the Convention are guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution. But given the track-record of the Turkish authorities of ignoring all outside calls and criticism, we can probably expect more of the same if the ECHR finds against Turkey. On the plus side, this kind of high-profile tut-tutting from arguably the top human rights court in the world would doubtless annoy Erdogan hugely, so there is that.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: european court of human rights, human rights, recep tayyip erdogan, turkey, website blocking
Companies: wikimedia foundation, wikipedia


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  • identicon
    MathFox, 24 May 2019 @ 4:20am

    Turkish EU membership?

    A verdict of the ECHR against Turkey's block of Wikipedia will be seen as the EU as another strike against Erdogan when evaluating the human rights situation for a potential EU membership of Turkey.
    I see no change in the near future because for Erdogan staying in power has a higher priority than the economic welfare or Turkish people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 6:28am

    Today, we proceed to the European Court of Human Rights ... to ask the Court to lift the more than two-year block of Wikipedia in Turkey.

    we are doing so only after continued and exhaustive attempts to lift the block through legal action in the Turkish courts, good faith conversations with the Turkish authorities, and campaigns to raise awareness of the block and its impact on Turkey and the rest of the world.

    So it seems Wikipedia has more than enough money to keep its doors open, counter to the claims made during their annual fundraising efforts. I'd bet if people knew they were contributing to a legal campaign to get Wikipedia unblocked in Turkey they'd have gotten a lot fewer contributions. I know I won't be contributing again if that's how they spend the money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 7:08am

      Re:

      I highly doubt someone with the attitude on display here donated anything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 7:17am

        Re: Re:

        Why is it so hard to believe? I've donated multiple times (at least 3 that I can recall) because Wikipedia is a valuable resource I don't think we can afford to lose and I've referred to it countless times. But if they can afford to fight an undoubtedly expensive legal battle to get Wikipedia unblocked in Turkey of all places they surely aren't strapped for cash and the doors will remain open for quite some time. That they've repeatedly claimed they can barely afford to keep the lights on in order to solicit donations was clearly a lie. I don't care to donate to liars and if they fold up someone else will take their place.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          ryuugami, 24 May 2019 @ 8:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          because Wikipedia is a valuable resource I don't think we can afford to lose and I've referred to it countless times

          But it's OK if the Turkish people lose it. They can afford that.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2019 @ 8:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            They've already lost it and there's nothing Wikipedia is likely able to do about it. And no, I don't really care whether Turkey has access to Wikipedia.

            The altruistic choice isn't between "Everything for everyone!" and "Nothing for anyone!". Do you donate to every charity on Earth?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 May 2019 @ 12:35am

      Re:

      Don't donate to any organization that seeks to defend the civil rights of its members, gotcha.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 6:56am

    I don't think Erdogan will care about whatever the european body has to say just saying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 May 2019 @ 8:54am

    Sounds good to me

    On the plus side, this kind of high-profile tut-tutting from arguably the top human rights court in the world would doubtless annoy Erdogan hugely, so there is that.

    Annoying the child playing at tin-pot dictator sounds like a good enough motivation to me for a lawsuit, even if it doesn't manage any more than that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 24 May 2019 @ 2:57pm

    Leave now, and NEVER come back!!

    As long as I am in charge, I will make sure we don’t spend another lira with them. This is ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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