Istanbul, Turkey as seen from International Space Station

Istanbul, Turkey as seen from the International Space Station on April 16, 2004. Photo by NASA Earth Observatory, public domain.

On Saturday, April 29, we learned that the Turkish Internet Regulator (ICTA) implemented a block of all language versions of Wikipedia in Turkey. Wikipedia is a global source of neutral, reliable information in hundreds of languages. If it remains, this block will result in millions of people in Turkey losing access to free knowledge about their country and the world around them. We believe knowledge is a fundamental human right, and urge the Turkish government to remove this block.

A dedicated community of volunteer editors write and maintain more than 40 million articles on Wikipedia. This global community has a powerful vision: a world where every single person can freely access the sum of all knowledge. Wikipedia represents a rich source of knowledge on a wide range of topics, from history to medicine to technology. The nearly 300,000 articles on Turkish Wikipedia also provide knowledge for millions of people about Turkey’s history, culture, and geography—written for Turkish speakers, by Turkish speakers.

Freedom of information is a foundation of free knowledge. For many people, Wikipedia is the most accessible source of reliable, neutral information in their language. It may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive, but this alone should never be grounds for removal. We believe that everyone in the world has a fundamental right to freely share and access knowledge without fear of repercussions. We strongly oppose censorship or threats that lead to self-censorship.

The block occurred shortly following a notice on Friday, April 28 from the ICTA, requesting a URL-based block in Turkey of a number of articles on both English and Turkish Wikipedias.

A number of claims attributed to Turkish authorities in the press have suggested that Wikipedians have been part of a “smear campaign,” or created content “supporting terrorism.” We are deeply concerned by any suggestion that freely sharing the encyclopedia articles created by the worldwide volunteer editor community could be misconstrued as supporting a violent or hateful agenda. We believe there has been a misunderstanding. Wikipedia’s purpose is to share encyclopedic information with the world. At the Wikimedia Foundation, we unequivocally condemn and reject terrorism.

The Wikimedia Foundation calls on the Turkish government to restore full access to Wikipedia for the Turkish people, and empower them to once again share in the world’s largest free knowledge resource. We are currently considering appropriate ways to challenge this decision through the Turkish courts. We invite you to join us in calling on the Turkish government to respect the rights of their citizens and #UnblockWikipedia.

The Wikimedia Foundation does not set editorial policy for the Wikimedia projects. We respect and support the editorial decisions made by the community of editors around the world, including those of the Turkish Wikipedia community.

Katherine Maher, Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation