Turkey blocked [Turkey Blocks press release] the website Wikipedia [official website] on Saturday deeming it a threat to national security. Opponents say Turkey’s choice [Reuters report] to block the website further supports rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies opinion that the country prohibits freedom of speech and other basic rights. Turkey supported its decision stating a law permits it to block access to individual web pages or entire websites for the protection of the order, national security, or general welfare. Turkey’s communications ministry alleged that Wikipedia was attempting to run a “smear campaign” against it. Under the law, allowing them to ban Wikipedia, the government has to submit its ban to a court within 24 hrs and the court then has two days to determine if the ban should be upheld.
Since a failed coup attempt last July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. At the end of January a judge for the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals ordered the release of a Turkish judge [JURIST report] who was involved in adjudicating a Rwandan genocide case and had been incarcerated since July. Earlier in January the Turkish Parliament approved a plan [JURIST report], which, if approved by vote later this year, would increase presidential power within the country and would allow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stay in office until 2029. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST reports] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In February, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks [official profile] urged [JURIST report] Turkey to “change course and to display the responsibility and tolerate expected in a democratic society.” In October Human Rights Watch warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup had resulted in serious human rights violations. In July Amnesty International condemned [JURIST report] Turkey for attacking the freedom of the press by issuing arrest warrants for 42 journalists.