Turkey, Censorship 2.0

The Turkey authorities has censored Wikipedia. The government’s accusation against the digital encyclopedia is to lead a “defamatory campaign” against the country. The Wikimedia Foundation has appealed to Ankara Court that rejected.

Demonstrators hold placards with some featuring a picture of Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a protest against internet censorship in Istanbul May 15, 2011. Thousands of people marched in central Istanbul to protest against the government’s plan to filter the internet. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The case: the online encyclopedia blocked in Turkey

Since April 29, Turkey has decided to block Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. The news comes from Turkey blocks, an independent organization responsible for monitoring digital and Internet transparency in that country. Those who try to enter the Wikipedia portal using a Turkish server, a “Connection Error” warning will appear. According to Turkey Blocks, “access loss has done with Internet filters used to censor content in Turkey.” Banning of the site would be due to the remove refusing of two contents that show country inclusion under the headings: “Foreign countries involved in the conflict in Syria” and “States that provided support for jihadist terrorism “.

Subsequently, the Wikimedia Foundation filed an appeal based on a violation of the freedom of expression, claiming that the contested content is attributable to only two pages. This could not justify the closure of the entire site.

The Ankara court, however, has rejected the appeal, because “absolute freedom of expression cannot be claimed”. It may be subject to limitations “on the basis of particular cases in which moderation is imposed”. Moreover, the state of emergency in Turkey, that has been in force since July 22, 2016, can suspend the European Convention on Human Rights.

There are different observers, both local and international, for freedom of expression and human rights, who denounce this as “another step towards internet closure”. Wikipedia’s is not the first case of censorship in Turkey. Turkish law no. 5651, issued in 2007 and later reinforced in 2014, allows the government to censor websites without consulting a judge for reasons of “national security, public order recovery and crime prevention.” Even Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype, YouTube have been blocked several times during political events or in conjunction with terrorist attacks. Reporters currently in prison are more than 153. In addition, according to data from the World Press Freedom Index, Turkey is ranked 155th of 180 countries considered.

Freedom of information  2.0

The US NGO Freedom House, which promotes research and advocacy on various issues such as political liberties, human rights, democracy, has analyzed the freedom to surf the net in Turkey. The collected data was published in the “Silencing the Messenger: Communication Apps under Pressure” report.

The report shows that Turkey’s position has slipped dangerously into the section of countries where Internet access is not free. Why is the internet so important? Because is in our life since 1970, today its current use is unprecedented. According to the International Telecommunication Union, the number of Internet users has reached 3.4 billion in 2016. Internet is one of the most powerful tools of the 21st century. The network provides a fundamental means through which access to information increase and citizens’ active participation has made easy. Moreover, its educational use is undeniable as it provides access to a wide source of knowledge. Its educational benefits contribute to the increase of human capital in the states.

According to a United Nations report, Internet access is included at all in the human right. According to Frank La Rue, the special rapporteur who wrote the document “On the Protection and Promotion of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion”, internet has become fundamental for individuals to exercise their freedom of opinion and expression rights. This has guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, drafted with far-sightedness to incorporate future technological developments.

Turkey seen from abroad

Freedom of information is getting worse in Turkey. Erdogan’s target, are no more only journalists and or illustrious personalities of Turkish culture, but all who express their dissent. It is enough a Tweet against the government to end in jail for months. Everyone can become enemy of the country: Kurds, opposition journalists, professors, ecologists. The accusation is always the same: “terrorist or friend of terrorists”. The same accusation has involved Can Dündar in 2015, a journalist of the independent newspaper Cumhuriyet, for showing that Turkish secret services had provided arms to Islamic extremists in Syria. After the unsuccessful attempted coup, he has started a new editorial initiative in Germany, country where he lives in exile. In February, he launched the Özgürüz (free) information site on Turkey, as declared in L’Espresso’s interview. The goal of the site was to continue, along with other “roaming” Turkish journalists, what they were trying to do in Turkey. Nevertheless, as soon as it went online, “the Turkish Information and Communication Authority has decided to block it, even before it was activated in the Turkish version,” Dündar said.

It is evident that the post-referendum situation has dramatically deteriorated, as reported in a previous SocialNews article. The referendum outcome showed, despite the victory of the Evet Front (Yes), a loss of consensus. The cities have deployed with the face of the Hijr (No). In addition, 10% of Erdogan party AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, has voted against the Sultan.

Erdogan came out weaker for sure, but that is why is more likely that we will stay in the wake of the censorship and hold a fist of iron. Internal stability and security therefore are destined to get worse.


[Article translated by Claudio G. Torbinio]

Jessica Genova

Nata a Genova nel 1991. Si laurea in Filosofia e successivamente prosegue i suoi studi all’Università di Padova in Human Rights and Multi-level Governance. È Capo Dipartimento Diritti Umani di U.P.K.L., associazione che promuove l’insegnamento dei diritti umani attraverso lo sport, e membro osservatore della Commissioe HEPA. Interessata alle politiche e pratiche in materia di Diritto dei Rifugiati trascorre un periodo di due mesi al confine turco-siriano, collaborando con ASAM, Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants. Al rientro entra a far parte del gruppo regionale sul fenomeno migratorio di Croce Rossa Italiana, ove svolge anche attività di volontariato. Hobbies e passioni sono da sempre viaggi e scrittura. Scrive per La Chiave di Sophia e Social News, approfondendo così le tematiche di Diritti Umani e Geopolitica. I diritti umani sono per lei una sfida e una speranza. 


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