Turkey’s media watchdog demanding licenses for DW’s alternative websites

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) is asking German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s (DW) Turkish edition to secure broadcasting licenses for its alternative  websites that were launched to circumvent an access ban on the news outlet’s Turkish edition, Turkish Minute reported, citing a RTÜK member.

The DW website, along with the Turkish edition of the US state-owned international multimedia broadcaster Voice of America (VOA), were blocked in June 2022 when they refused to obtain broadcasting licenses to be able to continue their services in the country. The outlets described RTÜK’s demand in February 2022 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 an attempt to make its content available to Turks, DW continued its operations on alternative websites, dwturkce.com and inspiredminds.de/tr, since its main web address, dw.com/tr was blocked.

Now RTÜK is demanding broadcasting licenses from DW’s alternative websites. The decision was made at a RTÜK meeting this week by a majority of votes, RTÜK member Tuncay Keser, who voted against the move, announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.

He said if an application is not made to acquire broadcasting licenses for DW’s alternative websites, RTÜK will take legal action for the imposition of an access ban on these websites, too.

“There is no tolerance for freedom of the press, diversity in the media or journalism,” Keser said.

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 at the time.

The media outlet took the access ban to Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

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.

Turkey, where journalists and media outlets frequently face legal harassment for their work, is ranked in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index 165th among 180 countries.

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