Turkey's Wikipedia ban ends after almost three years

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Turkey is restoring access to Wikipedia after a ban that lasted almost three years.

The country's Constitutional Court ruled that the ban violated freedom of expression, the pro-government newspaper Milliyet reported.

The online encyclopaedia was blocked in Turkey in April 2017, after it refused to delete articles critical of the country's government.

The ban lasted 991 days, said internet-monitoring organisation NetBlocks.org.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the service, had refused to remove articles that said Turkey's government had cooperated with the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda in Syria.

"We are thrilled that the people of Turkey will once again be able to participate in the largest global conversation about the culture and history of Turkey online and continue to make Wikipedia a vibrant source of information about Turkey and the world," the foundation blogged.

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On Wednesday, the hashtag #Wikipedia became the top trending topic on Twitter in Turkey after the ban was lifted, BBC Monitoring reported.

Local newspaper Hurriyet said: "Wikipedia is finally free."

Not everyone in Turkey can browse Wikipedia at this point. The service has said that the ban is being lifted "gradually" and that some internet service providers are "still in the process of restoring access".

The community-edited encyclopaedia has been intermittently censored by authorities around the world, and remains blocked in China.

The general reaction in the Turkish media is a sense of relief, as the block was lifted almost a month after the Constitutional Court ruled the ban was a violation of freedom of expression.

Others said the decision to restore access to Wikipedia should have happened earlier.

"The Constitutional Court should not have waited 2.5 years. This has been a very serious loss for Turkey," Turkish academic Yaman Akdeniz, one of the plaintiffs against the ban, told Haberturk TV news channel.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told the same channel that he "hoped this was a great victory for returning to a process of normalisation for freedom of speech" in Turkey.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a prominent pro-government columnist for the Hurriyet newspaper, wrote on Thursday that "he was mostly happy for [Turkish] ministers and bureaucrats who would enter Wikipedia through alternative means".

Turkish computer engineering expert Cem Say said he had removed Turkey from an entry about countries where Wikipedia is blocked.

"What a relief, Wikipedia!" prominent Turkish columnist and TV host Ahmet Hakan wrote in December, when media reported on the ruling.

"The lock on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia was unsuitable," he said.

"The only thing I do not understand is this: why would anyone be bothered by Wikipedia being free?" he added at the time.