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Turkey Blocks Wikipedia, Accusing It Of Running 'Smear Campaign'

The "Wikipedia" logo seen on a tablet screen. On Saturday, the site was blocked in Turkey.
Lionel Bonaventure
AFP/Getty Images
The "Wikipedia" logo seen on a tablet screen. On Saturday, the site was blocked in Turkey.

Turkish residents were unable to access Wikipedia on Saturday after the government blocked the site, citing content "showing Turkey in coordination and aligned with various terrorist groups," according to the Anadolu news agency.

The government has not officially commented on the outage. But the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry told the state-run agency, "Instead of coordinating against terrorism, (Wikipedia) has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena."

Ankara had asked Wikipedia to remove the content, but according to the Ministry, the site refused; if the site meets Turkey's demands, the ban will be lifted.

Turkey Blocks, a censorship monitoring group, said the the blackout occurred at 8 a.m. local time in accordance with an administrative blocking order, with a full court blocking order expected in the coming days.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reports, "The government has lashed out at the posting of sensitive images or comments deemed insulting. Officials regularly impose news blackouts after terrorist attacks and other major incidents."

Saturday's move is the latest in what critics describe as Turkey's crack down on free speech following last summer's coup attempt, with dozens of media outlets shuttered and journalists jailed.

Wikipedia is a widely-used online encyclopedia, whose content is largely written by anonymous, unpaid volunteers.

Juliet Barbara, a spokeswoman for the Wikimedia Foundation, tells NPR, "We are committed to ensuring that Wikipedia remains available to the millions of people who rely on it in Turkey. To that end, we are actively working with outside counsel to seek judicial review of the decision affecting access to Wikipedia. We hope the issue can be resolved promptly."

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Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.