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Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia over ‘terror’ claims

Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia over ‘terror’ claims

ISTANBUL: Turkey on Saturday blocked all access inside the country to the online encyclopedia Wik­ipedia reportedly for articles claiming links between Ankara and terror groups, the latest restriction on a popular website to hit Turkish users.

Turkey’s Information and Com­munication Tech­nologies Authority (BTK) said it had implemented the ban against Wikipedia.org, without making clear the reason for the move.

Turkish state media said the ban was imposed because Wikipedia had failed to remove content promoting terror and accusing Turkey of cooperation with various terror groups.

There was no indication as to when the ban might be removed, with a formal court order expected to follow in the coming days.




Reacting to the ban, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales wrote on Twitter: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

A block affecting all language editions of the website in Turkey was detected from 0500 GMT after an administrative order by the Turkish authorities, according to the Turkey Blocks monitoring group, which follows internet restrictions in the country.

Residents in Istanbul were unable to access any pages of Wikipedia on Saturday morning without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), AFP correspondents said. “The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” Turkey Blocks said.

The BTK confirmed the ban in a statement but gave no details. “After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law No. 5651, an administrative measure has been taken for this website Wikipedia.org,” it said.

Law 5651, passed in 2014 by parliament, bolstered the BTK’s control over the internet and was seen at the time by freedom of expression activists as an erosion of online liberties.

The incident quickly spawned its own separate Wikipedia entry — “Wikipedia blocked in Turkey”.

Quoting Turkey’s transport and communications ministry, the state-run Anadolu news agency said the ban was imposed because Wikipedia had failed to take down content purporting to show Turkey “on the same level as and cooperating with” terror groups.

It said Turkey had kept in contact with Wikipedia but the site had failed to remove the content in question. Should the content be removed, the order would be lifted and access restored, it said. Turkey has become notorious over the last years for temporarily blocking access to popular sites, including Facebook and Twitter, in the wake of major events such as mass protests or terror attacks.

Bans dating shows, fires 4,000 officials under emergency

Turkey on Saturday fired almost 4,000 public officials and imposed a ban on TV dating shows, in new decrees issued under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s failed coup.

The total of 3,974 dismissed officials includes more than 1,000 people working with the justice ministry and over 1,000 staff employed by the army, said the decree, which included the name of every fired official.

Those fired from the air force included over 100 pilots, it added. Almost 500 academics working for state institutions were also dismissed.

The dismissals came after Turkey on April 26 detained more than 1,000 people and suspended over 9,100 police in a vast new crackdown against alleged supporters of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the failed July 15 coup bid.

In a separate decree issued at the same time, Turkey also banned hugely popular television dating shows, a move that been mooted for months by the government.

“In radio and television broadcasting services, such programmes in which people are introduced to find a friend.... cannot be permitted,” said the text of the decree.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said in March that the ban was in the pipeline, arguing the shows do not fit in with Turkish traditions and customs.

“There are some strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity,” Kurtulmus said at the time. “God willing, in the near future, we will most likely remedy this with an emergency decree, “he said.

Turkish military kills Kurdish militants in Iraq

Turkey’s military said it killed 14 members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes in northern Iraq on Saturday, as Ankara steps up a push against the group and their affiliates in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has intensified attacks on the PKK in northern Iraq and its Syrian-Kurdish affiliate, the YPG, in northern Syria. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that as many as 220 militants had been killed in recent strikes elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Six militants were killed around the area of Sinat-Haftan and eight in the countryside around Adiyaman in two separate air strikes in northern Iraq on Saturday morning, the military said in a statement.

Erdogan considers the Syrian-Kurdish fighters to be a terrorist group and is concerned their advances in northern Syrian could fuel the Kurdish insurgency at home.

He is expected to raise the issue when he meets with US President Donald Trump next month. “We tell our American friends not to take terrorists with them,” Erdogan said in comments broadcast live on network NTV.

He reiterated his position that he does not want the United States to use the YPG in the fight to take Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital in Syria. “America, coalition forces and Turkey can join hands and Raqqa will turn into a graveyard for Daesh,” he said.

He said some 210-220 militants had been killed in recent air strikes elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017

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