Turkey’s Internet blocking undemocratic, says CoE commissioner

Turkey’s ongoing Internet blocking is unacceptable in a democratic society and in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of expression, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, said.

The country’s blocking of access to Wikipedia is part of a broader pattern of undue restrictions on the internet, displaying the heavy-handed approach by authorities toward content or information the Turkish authorities consider offensive, Mijatović said in a report submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Turkish government has imposed tight regulation of the country’s Internet, blocking hundreds of thousands of sites and domains including widely used resources like Wikipedia.

Washington-based pro-democracy group Freedom House, in a report published earlier this month listed Turkey in the category of “not free” countries in terms of Internet freedom. 

The report pointed to ongoing punishments for online speech and the government’s arbitrary and disproportionate purge of critics particularly following the July 2016 coup attempt as the cause increasing self-censorship.

The Turkish Constitutional Court, which is the only legal instance capable of making a Convention-compliant assessment of blocking measures, Mijatović said, cannot be relied upon to remedy violations resulting from Internet blocking at present.

Mijatovic also pointed to the disconnect between the very large number of abusive blocking measures by the Turkish authorities and the small number of violation judgments issued by the Constitutional Court.

Applicants can expect extremely long delays in obtaining redress from the Constitutional Court, she added.