The Turkish edition of German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle will close its office in Turkey after its business license, which enabled it to open an office as a foreign news outlet, has not been renewed by the Turkish authorities, according to a journalist.
İsmail Saymaz, from the Halk TV news website, claimed in an article published on Friday that Deutsche Welle will close down its office at the end of March after an application the agency made in February for the extension of its business license, which was valid for two years, was rejected by the presidential communications directorate.
The directorate rejected the agency’s application earlier this month on the grounds that its choice of area of activity was wrong.
Deutsche Welle’s reporters and editors will from now on not be able to work as permanent staff members but rather as freelancers.
Saymaz said among the international news outlets operating in Turkey, Deutsche Welle is the one that angers the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) the most due to its critical coverage of events in the country.
In a controversial move last July, Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) blocked access to the Turkish editions of Deutsche Welle as well as Voice of America due to their refusal to comply with an order from RTÜK in February 2022 to obtain broadcasting licenses, which they said would amount to censorship.
Deutsche Welle General Director General Peter Limbourg said at the time that his agency refused to apply for a Turkish license because it would harm independent broadcasting.
“In our extensive correspondence, as well as in personal conversations with the head of the media monitoring agency, we explained why DW cannot apply for such a license,” Limbourg said in a statement.
People from Turkey have been able to access the Deutsche Welle website by using VPN since then.
The move by RTÜK has been described by media outlets as an attempt at censorship and at expansion of the Turkish government’s control over domestic media to foreign outlets, which 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.
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.
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.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.