Turkish authorities should not harass or censor international outlets: CPJ

Turkish authorities must allow all news outlets to work freely and should not use licensing regulations to harass or censor international outlets, the Committee to Protect journalists (CPJ) said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has given three international news agencies operating in the country a 72-hour deadline to apply for online broadcasting licenses, warning that access to those news websites that fail to obtain a license will be banned.

“The Turkish media regulator’s reported ultimatum issued to Euronews, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle is worrying and could severely limit their ability to work in the country,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “News outlets should not have to guess at the government’s licensing requirements; the RTÜK must immediately disclose any changes affecting those broadcasters, and give them ample time to comply with new policies.”

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Wednesday that RTÜK has for the first time exercised its supervisory power over international news websites and approved with a majority vote a 72-hour deadline for the Turkish services of international news outlets amerikaninsesi.com (Voice of America), dw.com/tr (German broadcaster Deutsche Welle) and tr.euronews.com to apply for a license.

The Turkish editions of the three outlets are the only source of free and independent journalism for some people in Turkey, where a majority of the media is controlled by the government.

Taşçı said although the 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.

Since the new regulation 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.

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