ECHR rejects Wikimedia application against Turkey over access block

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday rejected an application by the foundation that runs Wikipedia take Turkey to court for blocking access to the online encyclopaedia in the country, Euronews Turkish reported.

Wikipedia was blocked in Turkey in April 2017 for three years, after it refused to delete articles critical of the country's government. Turkey blocked access to all of the online encyclopaedia’s pages due to the inability of the Wikimedia Foundation to remove access to individual pages.

Wikimedia filed a complaint with the ECHR in April 2019 after Turkish courts upheld an appeal of the ban.

The Wikipedia ban was eventually lifted in April of 2020 after the country's Constitutional Court ruled that the ban violated freedom of expression. Wikimedia was subsequently awarded 2,732 lira ($ 184 in the current exchange rate) in lieu of its legal expenses.

The ECHR on Thursday cited the Constitutional Court’s ruling in its application rejection, Euronews Turkish said, noting that the court had provided “appropriate and sufficient redress for the damage sustained.’’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government for years has been tightening its grip on the internet and plans to intensify the crackdown through a social media directorate to combat what it calls “fake news, disinformation, provocation and lynch justice in the social networks."

In July of 2020, Turkish parliament approved sweeping changes to social media regulations, introducing fines, restricted bandwidth and possible bans for social media firms who break the law and giving the government sweeping new powers to regulate content.

Government sources have said the bill is currently being drafted for the law that will see violations be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.

Turkey was ranked “not free” by Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2021 index. The organisation said the government continued to expand its attempts to control online sources of news and information. Turkey’s score of 35 out of 100 on social media freedom was lower than that of Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

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