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3 int’l news outlets in Turkey face ban as deadline set by media watchdog expires

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Three international online news outlets operating in Turkey are facing an access ban as they have not applied for broadcasting licenses as demanded by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), according a RTÜK member.

A 72-hour deadline set by RTÜK for three international news agencies — the Turkish editions of Voice of America (VOA), the US state-owned international multimedia broadcaster; Germany’s state-run broadcaster Deutsche Welle; and the Lyon-based Euronews — to apply for online broadcasting licenses, which began to run on Monday, has expired.

İlhan Taşçı, a RTÜK member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Friday that none of the three news outlets had applied for a broadcasting license by the deadline. He said RTÜK would now go to the Ankara Penal Court of Peace seeking an access ban on the media outlets. If the court rules for a ban, the news outlets will be able to challenge the court’s decision at a higher court.

“The judiciary has the final say about freedom of the press,” Taşçı tweeted.

The move has been described by the media outlets 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.

Deutsche Welle and VOA announced earlier this week that they would appeal RTÜK’s decision and take legal action in 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.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 85 percent of the national media in Turkey is owned by pro-government businessmen who toe the official line.

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