Today, the Wikimedia Foundation welcomes the news that our case brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to lift the block of Wikipedia in Turkey has been communicated to the Turkish Government and given priority status by the court, just two months after the case was filed with the court. Priority status is granted rarely and reserved for the most important, serious, and urgent cases before the court and signals the critical impact our case could have in curbing government censorship online.
Two years ago, the Turkish government blocked Wikipedia. We believe free access to knowledge and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights, and by blocking Wikipedia, the Turkish government violated these rights for everyone living in the country. After extensive discussions with the Turkish government and challenging the block in Turkish courts, we were left with no choice but to bring our petition to the ECHR, an international court which hears cases of human rights violations within the Council of Europe.
The court’s new designation for our case is significant for a number of reasons.
Granting our case priority status means it will likely proceed at a faster rate than other cases typically do. Cases before the ECHR can take months or even years to get to where we are now. The Government of Turkey has until late October to submit its observations in the case to the court. We hope this case will uphold peoples’ fundamental rights to freedom of expression.
The case may also help set precedent for future decisions in the area of governments limiting access to information, and comes at a time when we’ve seen a rise in government censorship online globally.
Why is this important?
Wikipedia is written by the world, for the world. It is a completely free source of knowledge. Anyone in the world should be free to contribute knowledge to the site. Equally, anyone should be free to read its pages and learn more about the world around them. But not everyone in the world is free to do these things. And when Wikipedia, and other sources of free knowledge, are censored and blocked in parts of the world, we all suffer. The people living within the impacted areas lose access to one of the modern wonders of the world and are cut off from millions of topics that could inspire creation and innovation.
The rest of the world loses out on the perspectives of the people inside these areas—their histories, their cultures, and their unique sources of knowledge created and maintained over thousands of years.
People deserve the chance to discover for themselves the facts about the world they live in. They deserve the ability to give back and to contribute their perspective and worldview to the digital commons we all share. When any free knowledge is censored, we’re all the worse for it.
We urge the Turkish government to unblock Wikipedia and once again let the people of Turkey join in sharing and participating in free knowledge.
If you believe in our cause, here are two things you can do:
- Use #ForFreeKnowledge and #UnblockWikipedia on Twitter to let people know you support efforts to unblock Wikipedia in Turkey.
- Make a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation to support our efforts to keep Wikipedia’s knowledge freely accessible in countries around the world.
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For the Wikimedia Foundation’s formal statement about the ECHR’s decision to expedite our legal case, please see our press release.