Wikipedia, the free open-source online encyclopedia, has written to Turkey’s leadership calling for a year-long ban on the site to be lifted.
Writing in an open letter to Turkey’s communication minister, Ahmet Arslan, Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel Eileen Hershenov claimed recent statements of his “seriously misrepresent Wikipedia’s open editing model and efforts undertaken by the Wikimedia Foundation to lift the block”.
Arslan had complained earlier that the site had not moved to take down what he described as “mistaken information”.
On 29 April 2017, the Turkish authorities blocked access to all Wikipedia pages across hundreds of different languages. This ban came two weeks after a constitutional referendum narrowly won by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and nationalist allies.
It is thought that Wikipedia entries dealing with topics like accusations of Turkish state support for jihadist groups in Syria had fallen foul of the country’s rulers.
Turkey’s communications ministry at the time said Wikipedia “has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena”.
Although Wikipedia says it does not have the power to alter or remove content — relying on a network of volunteer editors instead — it has nevertheless faced a continuing and comprehensive ban by Ankara.
In her letter Hershenov writes: “We respectfully request that the government join us in asking the court to lift the ban so that Wikipedia can return to serving as a valuable, free educational resource on a wide range of topics, including science, engineering, art, and culture.
“We would like to see the Turkish people able to contribute to the global conversation, including Turkish topics, on Wikipedia. As we have repeatedly noted, we are all made poorer for the absence of contributions by the Turkish people.”