The Strasbourg Court dismisses Wikipedia’s complaint for the three-year blockade it suffered in Turkey | Technology
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the judicial body of the Council of Europe, has declared inadmissible this Thursday the request of the Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia’s non-profit organization) with which it denounced in 2019 the blocking suffered by its page website in Turkey since 2017 and what he considered to be a violation of his right to freedom of expression. The Strasbourg Court considers that, since the Turkish Constitutional Court admitted the complaint that Wikimedia filed at that time in its country and ordered the unblocking of the website, the Foundation is no longer a victim of the case. The veto took place between 2017 and 2020.
One of Wikimedia’s legal advisers, Stephen LaPorte, said: “We respect the Court’s decision, as our primary goal of restoring access to Wikipedia in Turkey has already been achieved.” Despite this, the Foundation had decided to go ahead with the process to set a good precedent for freedom of expression and to achieve more guarantees in case of facing censorship again, either in Turkey or in any other country. .
In addition to unlocking Wikipedia, the Turkish Constitutional Court had also compensated the Foundation at the end of 2019 for costs and expenses during the process. Strasbourg defends that the Turkish court, through its resolution in favor of Wikimedia, admitted the violation of the right to freedom of expression contained in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the basis of the Council of Europe and the ECHR.
In April 2017, the Turkish government asked Wikipedia to remove two articles from its website, citing security concerns. One was titled “State Sponsored Terrorism”; the other, “Foreign Involvement in the Syrian Civil War.” They gave him a period of four hours to block them, but, at the end of that period, the Presidency of Telecommunications and Informatics of Turkey considered that only those two pages could not be blocked and proceeded to block the entire Wikipedia website in all languages. .
Wikimedia initiated several appeals in national courts and before justices of the peace, until it made the request to the Constitutional Court, which until two years later did not resolve the case. When it did, in 2019, it ordered the unblocking of the website, which was finally restored in January 2020. In its statement after learning of the Strasbourg decision, Wikimedia has insisted on the fact that the European Court has recognized that the deadline for two years and eight months that the Turkish Constitutional Court took to resolve the process may be considered excessive in the future, although it has not condemned it in this specific case.
Wikipedia was blocked in Turkey for almost three years. Today, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed our petition to restore access, as the block was lifted in 2020 and determined a human rights violation in another court. #ForFreeKnowledge https://t.co/E1TejTrbdt
— Wikimedia Foundation (@Wikimedia) March 24, 2022
The resolution has come precisely a few days after the Russian government, like the Turkish government did in its day, asked Wikipedia to withdraw certain articles that spoke of the invasion of Ukraine. “Access to knowledge remains at risk throughout the world, including Russia,” Wikimedia said in its statement.
The article on the Russian invasion of Ukraine has received more than three million views in its Russian version, making it the most read article in the last month. Although Wikipedia hopes that Vladimir Putin’s government will not block its website, if that scenario were to play out, it would again face a cascade of litigation to try to regain access to that territory.
Through the complaint before the ECHR, Wikimedia intended, in addition to giving visibility to the censorship it suffered for almost three years in Turkey, to obtain some type of guarantee or precedent in case a situation of this type occurs again. During the process, he emphasized what he considers to be a “systemic problem”, in this case, of the Turkish government. According to him, he defends, the justices of the peace have blocked tens of thousands of websites without effective judicial control and despite the sentences for violation of the Constitution.
The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe himself defended during the process that “the decisions of the investigating judges are not always in harmony with the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, which creates a significant problem in the constitutional order and for the State of law in the country, which calls into question the effectiveness of the power of this body as the highest judicial authority”, according to the resolution. Although the Strasbourg Court claims to “take note of these arguments”, it says it does not have “sufficiently relevant elements to suggest that the Constitutional Court of Turkey is not capable of remedying the alleged systemic problem”.
This type of systematic blocking of web pages has been accentuated in Russia in recent weeks, not only by the media, but also by social networks. Of course, for now, Wikipedia is still operational and the number of visits to its Russian version has remained stable.
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