Countdown begins for 3 int’l media outlets in Turkey to get licenses or face ban

A 72-hour deadline set by Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), to three international news agencies to apply for online broadcasting licenses began to run on Monday, a RTÜK member announced.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Monday that RTÜK uploaded to its website its decision on the Turkish services of international news outlets (Voice of America), (German broadcaster Deutsche Welle) and to apply for a license and that the 72-hour deadline has begun.

“RTÜK will ask the court for an access ban to the news websites that have not applied for a license,” Taşçı tweeted.

Taşçı was the first to announce on Feb. 9 the RTÜK decision to require online broadcasting licenses from the three international news outlets.

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.

Taşçı said although a 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.

VOA, the US state-owned international multimedia broadcaster, vowed to do its best to ensure that its audience in Turkey has free and open access to the Internet if its Turkish service is blocked by the Turkish government.

“VOA believes any governmental efforts to silence news outlets is a violation of press freedom, a core value of all democratic societies,” VOA spokesperson Bridget Serchak said in a written statement following the RTÜK move earlier this month.

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.

In 2019 the Foundation for Political Economic and Social Research (SETA), a pro-government think tank in Turkey, published a 202-page report titled “The Offshoots of International Media Organizations in Turkey” and profiled journalists working for Turkish language services of international public broadcasters, including VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle and Sputnik. The authors alleged that their coverage is one-sided and unfair to the Turkish government. Journalist associations and unions in Turkey condemned the report and accused SETA of profiling the journalists.

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

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