Turkey’s media watchdog gives int’l news websites 72 hours to get licenses

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has given international news agencies operating in the country a 72-hour deadline to apply for online broadcasting licenses, warning that access to those news websites that fail to obtain a license will be banned, a member of RTÜK has announced.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Wednesday that RTÜK has for the first time exercised its supervisory power over international news websites and approved with a majority vote a 72-hour deadline for the Turkish services of international news outlets amerikaninsesi.com (Voice of America), dw.com/tr (German broadcaster Deutsche Welle) and tr.euronews.com to apply for a license.

 

Taşçı warned that if these news outlets do not apply for a license within 72 hours, access will be prohibited.

The Turkish editions of the three outlets are the only source of free and independent journalism for some people in Turkey, where the majority of the media is controlled by the government.

“Now is the time [for the government] to supervise international news websites, following national sites, and silence them,” Taşçı said, adding that RTÜK’s target is actually freedom of the press and diversity in the media.

Taşçı said although the law that granted RTÜK the authority to supervise online news websites came into force in 2019, RTÜK wants to use this authority now, three years later, for the three international news websites.

In 2019, Turkey revised its media regulations to allow RTÜK to supervise online broadcasts. Since the new regulations went into effect, various streaming platforms including Netflix and Amazon Prime have applied for and received licenses.

“This is really out of the ordinary. Looks like more will come,” said Taşçı.

 

RTÜK is a controversial agency that is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

Another RTÜK member from the CHP, Okan Konuralp, tweeted that RTÜK’s action involving the foreign news outlets appears to be the implementation of the findings of a report on the international media by a pro-government think tank in 2019.

“However, this move, which is aimed at suppressing the international media, is also doomed to fail,” said Konuralp.

He was referring to a report by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in 2019 that profiled journalists working for foreign media organizations.

The 202-page report, titled “The Offshoots of International Media Organizations in Turkey,” purported to analyze the political and economic coverage by the Turkish services of international news organizations including VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle and Sputnik. The authors alleged that their coverage is one-sided and unfair to the Turkish government.

Journalists associations and unions in Turkey condemned the report and accused SETA of profiling the journalists.

The report listed several journalists working for those media organizations based in Turkey as well as in their respective home countries. Their social media postings, the content of their stories and their level of engagement on social media platforms are also included in the report.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 85 percent of the national media in Turkey is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.

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