Turkey Blocks Access to Two News Sites Global Voices Advox

Image by Arzu Geybullaeva

On June 30, the Turkish Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK) – the main media watchdog – blocked access to the Turkish language websites of Deutsche Welle (DW) and Voice of America (VoA ) after both outlets refused to obtain a broadcast license. . The decision comes months after Turkish media watchdog RTÜK said it would seek a court order to block access to Turkish-language services from DW, VoA and Euronews. The announcement came after the three refused to apply for a broadcast license within the 72-hour deadline granted by the watchdog in February 2022. In April 2022, after Euronews made adjustments to its website, RTÜK withdrew its request for the news platform.

In recent years, RTÜK has been granted sweeping powers to control online media content. The move was not unusual, given that more than 90% of mainstream media is owned by pro-government companies.

Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of cyberlaw at Istanbul Bilgi University, called the decision “censorship” in a series of tweets announcing the court’s ruling:

Censorship: Ankara Peace Criminal Court blocked DW and VoA news sites.

In February, VoA and DW announced their decision not to comply with RTÜK regulations. In their statement, the Voice of America said:

Licensing is the norm for radio and television broadcasting, as broadcast spectrum is a limited public resource and governments have a recognized responsibility to regulate spectrum to ensure that it is used in the interests of the public. General public. The Internet, on the other hand, is not a finite resource, and the only possible purpose of a licensing requirement for Internet distribution is to enable censorship.

DW’s statement echoes the sentiment:

After subjecting local media in Turkey to such regulation, an attempt is now being made to restrict reporting by international media services. This development does not concern the formal aspects of broadcasting, but the journalistic content itself. It gives Turkish authorities the ability to block the entire service based on critical individual reports, unless those reports are removed. This would open up the possibility of censorship. We will appeal this decision and take legal action in the Turkish courts.

The warning issued in February was based on a regulation that came into effect in August 2019 when the state granted RTÜK the power to monitor online broadcasting (ranging from on-demand platforms such as Netflix, to online broadcasts regular and/or scheduled home video amateur). makers), requiring online broadcasters to obtain a license from RTÜK.

In April 2022, RTÜK Council member Okan Konuralp, speaking to Bianet, said the council could block access to DW and VoA “if Ankara’s Criminal Justice of the Peace [Ankara Criminal Court of Peace] approves RTÜK’s request. On June 30, the court ruled in favor of the access ban. This is the first time that RTÜK’s powers have been used to block online news, Can Guleryuzlu, president of the Association of Progressive Journalists, said in an interview with VoA.

Responding to the ban which has now taken place, DW director Peter Limbourg said, “DW will take legal action against the blocking”, in an interview with the Financial Times. Limbourg also said that during DW’s discussions with the state watchdog, the tried media platform explained “why they could not comply with the request for a permit, including the fact that licensed media in Turkey are required to remove content that the watchdog deems inappropriate”. DW is now fully blocked in Turkey, including its international hyperlink.

In the meantime, VoA Turkish has shared on Twitter how to bypass the block using the Psiphon and nthLink programs:

When access to Internet content is blocked, you can bypass censorship and blocking and access content on the Internet using the “Psiphon” and “nthLink” programs and applications, which also have agreements with Voice of America (VOA) .

Sweeping legislative changes to national laws along with exhaustive institutional monitoring by government institutions such as RTÜK have created an environment of unlimited digital censorship in a country, described by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as the sixth worst jailer of journalists. according to the organization’s annual report from last year. In the autumn, the parliament will also begin discussions on the media bill described by critics of the government in power as a “censorship bill”.

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