Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia as opposition decries ‘censorship'

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ISTANBUL—Access to Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, has been blocked in Turkey for content presenting the country as supporting terror.

Turkey’s official news agency, quoting the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, said Saturday the site was blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

Turkey Blocks, an internet censorship monitor, said users in Turkey have been unable to access all language editions of Wikipedia since 8 a.m. Saturday. “The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” the monitor said.

The site has been blocked under a provisional administrative measure without a court order but Turkey Blocks said an order is expected in the coming days. The measure has been implemented by the country’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority.

Read more: Erdogan’s referendum win increases tension, deepens divisions in Turkey

Anadolu news agency said officials have warned Wikipedia to remove content likening Turkey to terror groups but the site “persistently” did not.

The agency says Turkey demanded Wikipedia to open an office in the country, act in line with international law and abide by court decisions and not be part of “blackout operation against Turkey.”

If these demands are met and the content removed, the site would be reopened, according to Anadolu.

Opposition lawmakers have criticized the move. Republican People’s Party parliamentarians Eren Erdem tweeted the ban puts “Turkey in line with North Korea” and Baris Yarkadas called it “censorship and a violation of the right to access information.”

Turkey’s status is listed as “not free” on the 2016 Freedom on the Net index by independent rights watchdog Freedom House. It says over 111,000 websites were blocked as of May last year.

When attempting to access Wikipedia without the use of a virtual private network (VPN), connections time out and browsers alert “this site can’t be reached.”

Wikipedia, a collaborative online reference work, is ranked among the 10 most popular websites.