Turkey blocks access to DW domains aimed at circumventing censorship

An Ankara court has blocked access to two domains operated by Deutsche Welle to publish news after its Turkish service was censored by authorities, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.

Delivered upon a request filed by broadcasting regulator the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the court order concerned the dwturkce.com and inspiredminds.de domains, which were launched as an alternative after the censorship imposed on the main DW Turkish domain.

RTÜK had previously demanded that the platform apply for a broadcasting license for the domains, giving 72 hours for compliance.

The previous ban on DW’s Turkish service was also imposed due to the platform’s refusal to comply with RTÜK’s licensing requirements on the grounds that they were incompatible with German laws and that they would lead to censorship.

DW spokesperson Carla Hagemann said licensing in Turkey requires setting up a legal entity where a Turkish citizen has at least 50 percent ownership and that compliance would mean the transfer of editorial responsibility to someone else.

“Such a demand is not compatible with the German law on Deutsche Welle, which stipulates that DW is entirely responsible for the content and that this responsibility is not transferrable,” Hagemann said, adding that RTÜK licensing might allow for Turkish government censorship of DW content.

The same regulation has also led to the censoring of the Turkish edition of Voice of America (VOA), while Euronews, which does not do live Turkish-language broadcasting, was exempted.

Traditionally overseeing TV and radio channels, RTÜK has in recent years been legally authorized to exercise control over online broadcasters and streaming platforms. The agency, whose members are appointed in proportion to the political parties’ parliamentary presence, is capable of imposing fines and broadcast bans as well as revoking broadcasting licenses.

It has been criticized for disproportionately targeting pro-opposition TV channels.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.

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