The country’s media watchdog blocked access to VoA and DW after they refused to get a broadcast license
The Turkish Broadcasting Authority (RTUK) has blocked the websites of the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and the American international radio station Voice of America (VoA). The blockage comes after the outlets refused to be licensed to broadcast or adapt their websites to comply with local laws.
Both outlets have responded to the block by posting instructions on their social media accounts and telling users how until bypassed the restrictions. Commenting on the ban, DW’s director, Peter Limbourg, promised to challenge the regulator’s decision in court.
“DW is going to take legal action against the blocking”, Limburg says so in an interview with the Financial Times. The outlet has repeatedly tried to tell the Turkish media watchdog “why it could not comply with the request to obtain a license, including requiring licensed media in Turkey to remove content that the watchdog deems inappropriate,” he added.
VoA’s parent company, the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), has labeled the ban an act of “censorship” by the Turkish authorities. RTUK has a “alarming choice” to censor the internet, USAGM acting CEO Kelu Chao said in a statement.
“The public in Turkey deserves access to fact-based news about the world around them. Despite this latest assault on press freedom, USAGM will not be deterred in its mission to support the free flow of information to people in Turkey and around the world.” added Chao.
On February 21, RTUK demanded DW, VoA and Euronews to obtain broadcasting licenses for their websites within 72 hours, citing a 2019 regulation that significantly expanded the powers of the media watchdog. However, all targeted news outlets refused to comply, claiming that this requirement amounted to: “censorship.”
“Licensing is the norm for radio and TV broadcasting because broadcasting spectrum is a finite public resource, and governments have a recognized responsibility to regulate spectrum to ensure it is used in the public interest. The Internet, on the other hand, is not a limited resource, and the only possible purpose of an Internet distribution licensing requirement is to enable censorship.” That said VoA in a statement at the time.
While DW offered a similar take on the situation, Euronews eventually succumbed to pressure from RTUK and made changes to its website. The Turkish media watchdog dropped the license request to Euronews in mid-April.
The DW and VoA bloc has already led to convictions from various journalist associations. For example, the German Journalists’ Association (DJV) has urged Berlin to put pressure on Turkey to lift the ban.
“The imposition of an entry ban on Deutsche Welle cannot be explained otherwise than by the sheer arbitrariness of the Erdogan autocracy,” DJV chairman Frank Uberall stated, insisting that DW has provided: “independent and critical journalism.”
The German representative for Reporters Without Borders, Christian Mihr, gave similar advice, accusing the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of seeking to expand its “continuous attacks on independent media” by also targeting international outlets.