The Turkish edition of the Rûdaw news website, part of a media group based in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, was blocked in Turkey as of October 6, Turkish media reported.
The German-based, pro-Kurdish news website Nuple as well as Nuçe Ciwan and AleviNet, which is affiliated with the minority Alevi sect, were also banned the same day in a court decision for undisclosed reasons.
Kurdish language news channel Rûdaw TV was removed from Türksat, a communications satellite owned by the Turkish government, in 2017 in a move to impede the access of Turkey’s Kurdish population to the channel. The decision had come in the aftermath of an independence referendum that was held in Iraqi Kurdistan. Two other Kurdish television stations — Waar TV and K 24 TV — were also removed from the satellite together with Rûdaw TV.
The blocking of the websites comes amid the coming into effect of a controversial social media law on October 1, which is expected to further stifle freedom of expression in the country. According to a statement issued by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on July 22 about the new regulations, the government’s ultimate goal is to control social media, the only remaining safe platform for critical journalists in Turkey.
“These new provisions give the Turkish government a great deal of control over social media and, if platforms comply with demands from the authorities, many online journalists could be under direct judicial threat,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu said. “As all forms of online dissent have already been subjected to systematic and arbitrary interventions, an unprecedented level of censorship on platforms should be expected from today onwards.”
Turkey was ranked 154th of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index prepared by RSF. In May, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir called on the Turkish authorities to urgently address and reverse current media freedom violations and the pressure journalists face.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.