A Turkish court has blocked the websites of Deutsche Welle (DW) and Voice of America (VOA) after the international broadcasters refused to file a license application as demanded by the Turkish government’s telecommunications regulator, RTÜK, citing a risk of censorship. IPI has previously warned that as the regulator has a proven pattern of harassing independent media, the license demand puts international media operating in Turkey online under increased state scrutiny and risks making them the target of fines and even broadcast bans.

On June 30, German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle and U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America announced that their websites were blocked across Turkey over licensing issues. DW Director General Peter Limbourg was quoted as saying that applying for the broadcasting permit demanded by RTÜK “is simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster … [as] media licensed in Turkey are required to delete online content that RTÜK interprets as inappropriate”. VOA Acting Director Yolanda López also objected to RTÜK’s demand by characterising it as “a thinly veiled effort to censor unfavourable press coverage”.

Sedat Bozkurt, a freelance journalist in Turkey who regularly comments on politics and media issues, including on broadcasters Medyascope and TELE1, told IPI that “this access block goes beyond censorship as it is not directed at a particular piece of news. It is the culmination of an effort to legitimate the restriction of digital media, which is largely used by Turkey’s youth. RTÜK, thereby, makes its intention clear: to further stifle potentially critical reporting as the country heads towards the next elections.”

“Instead of censoring international media, RTÜK should act according to its mandate and secure freedom of expression and media pluralism in the country”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We call on RTÜK to swiftly lift all restrictions on DW and VOA.”