Turkey Shuts Wikipedia as Opposition Party Cries Censorship

  • Access banned by communication authority on Saturday
  • Agency says ban came after technical, legal consideration

The Turkish government agency in charge of internet technologies blocked access to Wikipedia on Saturday, without giving a specific reason for the decision.

The ban was imposed after “technical analysis and legal consideration,” the Information and Communication Technologies Authority said, without citing any violation of Turkish law. The agency didn’t respond to calls placed outside regular business hours.

Christian Kern at the Brexit summit on April 29.

Photographer: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Internet users early Saturday began reporting problems trying to reach the site, the ubiquitous online encyclopedia that provides free access and lets users edit its content. The closure coincides with mounting Western criticism of an erosion of basic liberties in Turkey. A Council of Europe body, the parliamentary assembly, put Turkey on its watch list this month, saying a crackdown on government opponents compromised human rights and the rule of law.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said Turkey’s decision to block access to Wikipedia is “really worrying” and the censure and detentions related to a failed 2016 coup show that “we have to bring our relations with Turkey into new order.”

“We can’t afford to have an unstable country with 80 million citizens,” Kern added in comments made in Brussels Saturday at a meeting of European Union leaders.

The Wikipedia ban also drew the ire of largest opposition party CHP, which is challenging the government of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim over what it says were large scale irregularities at an April 16 referendum that expanded the executive powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office.

“The government can’t get enough of censorship. This time the victim is Wikipedia,” said CHP lawmaker Baris Yarkadas, a member of a party board that monitors political pressure on the media. “If there was a slander, lie or a pornographic content, this could have been removed via dialog with the website management,” Yarkadas said in emailed comments after the ban order.

The government has blocked access to popular websites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in the past, offering justifications such as terror propaganda or insults against Turkish political figures.

— With assistance by Cagan Koc, Firat Kozok, Edward Ludlow, and Arne Delfs

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