ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has given three international news agencies 72 hours to obtain an operating licence or else have access to their platforms blocked, one of its members said on Wednesday.
Ilhan Tasci criticised the move by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) to request licences from the Turkish language websites of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Voice of America and Euronews, saying it marked a further assault on media freedom in Turkey.
“A decision was taken with a majority of votes that 72 hours be granted to the websites of amerikaninsesi.com, dw.com/tr, and tr.euronews.com to get licences,” Tasci said in a tweet.
Tasci, one of nine members of the RTUK higher board, voted against it.
The RTUK board, which is dominated by the ruling AK Party, was not immediately available to comment on why it had requested the licences.
A spokesperson for Deutsche Welle said that they could not comment on the issue for the time being as there is no official information from RTUK on it yet.
Turkey has in recent years moved to increase media oversight by giving the RTUK oversight over all online content, which it also has the power to remove. About 90% of mainstream media in Turkey is now owned by the state or is close to the government.
Tasci, who is also an opposition lawmaker, said RTUK’s real target was media freedom.
“After the national media, it is the turn of international news sites to be supervised and muzzled. With RTUK’s ‘there are videos on the site, it must get a licence’ approach, there will be no unsupervised news outlets left,” he said.
Western allies and rights groups have accused President Tayyip Erdogan’s government of using a 2016 failed coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent. The government denies this, saying its measures are needed due to security threats facing Turkey.
During his nearly two decades in power, Erdogan has often criticised media content that is out of step with the conservative Islamic values espoused by his AK Party.
Okan Konuralp, another opposition member in RTUK, said Wednesday’s decision was an attempt at making media outlets into targets.
“However, this attempt to suppress international media too is doomed to fail,” he said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Additional reporting by Klaus Lauer in Berlin, Editing by Ece Toksabay, Gareth Jones and Angus MacSwan)