The two broadcasters were required in February by broadcasting watchdog RTÜK to apply for licenses
Access to the websites of international broadcasters Deutsche Welle (DW) and Voice of America (VOA) was blocked by a decision issued by the Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace late on 30 June 2022.
Access to all websites of the Germany-based DW, which publishes in 32 languages, and to VOA’s Turkish website was blocked upon a request from Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).
In a decision on 9 February 2022, RTÜK said Turkish websites of DW, Voice of America and Euronews must apply for a broadcasting license in order to keep their websites accessible in Turkey. It later granted them 72 hours to submit their license applications. In response, DW and VOA declared that they would not be applying for broadcasting licenses since it would lead to censorship and would, instead, file lawsuits against the media watchdog’s decision.
RTÜK was authorized to supervise online radio and television broadcasts, including on-demand platforms, by a regulation that came into force on 1 August 2019.
Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg said in a statement on 1 July that they refused to apply for a license in Turkey 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. “For example, licensed media in Turkey is obliged to delete online content that RTUK considers inappropriate. This is unacceptable for an independent media organisation,” he added.
Limbourg said DW would take legal action against the access ban.
The decision is set to further erode freedom of expression and media plurality in Turkey as the country heads for critical elections, slated for June 2023.
In remarks to BBC Turkish service, İlhan Taşcı, a member of RTÜK from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the timing of the access ban appeared political, coming more than four months after RTÜK gave DW and VOA the 72-hour ultimatum and right after a NATO summit in Spain.
Taşcı said the ban on the two international broadcasters the was another “threshold” in the ongoing crackdown on the media in Turkey, where, he said, the government has already been trying to control national television channels through RTÜK and newspapers through the Press Advertising Agency (BİK).
Arguing that the access ban on DW and VOA would not be the end, Taşcı said anti-democratic restrictions on the media would only intensify in the run-up to the election.