Turkey’s new internet censorship could be last blow for independent journalism - VOA

The Turkish government is attempting to silence the last platform for independent journalism by extending the powers of the state television and radio watchdog to cover internet broadcasting, the Voice of America reported on Tuesday. 

According to a regulation that entered into force in August, all broadcasters that want to provide radio, television and other types of broadcasting services on the internet will have to first obtain a licence from the state agency for monitoring, regulating, and sanctioning radio and television broadcasts (RTÜK). 

"This measure burns us," said Onur Öncü, a journalist who from his bedroom in Turkey sends news reports to Berlin-based independent news site Özgürüz. 

"There are so many internet portals in Turkey. News sites, web TV, even by phone, people can do citizen journalism via Periscope," VOA quoted Öncü as saying. "And the government saw this, and it became a troublesome issue for them because they couldn't prevent it.”

After the Doğan Media group was purchased by a government-affiliated conglomerate in 2018, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said that 90 percent of the media in Turkey had come under government control.

Social media and smaller internet sites have become the main platforms for alternative news in Turkey as mainstream news sources have lost their credibility, the Reuters Institute Digital News Report for 2019 said in June. 

"For obtaining crucial political information, you have to go to social media," Yaman Akdeniz, an academic and one of the founders of the Istanbul-based Freedom of Expression Society, told VOA. "That's why the Turkish authorities are targeting the internet,” he said. 

The association’s data shows that over 245,000 web sites have been blocked in Turkey, while Twitter and Youtube also face temporary blocks and Wikipedia has been banned since 2017. 

"It takes many years to take blocking decisions to the constitutional court and get a decision," Akdeniz said. "Some of the applications we made in 2015 are yet to be heard. That's why the news providers, rather than giving up, constantly adapt and find new ways, like [video streaming service] Periscope. Some news providers now use Instagram.”

Öncü believes that there will always be alternatives. 

"Unless they cut the cord for the internet, there could always be alternatives: YouTube, for example. It could be VINE or Facebook,” he said.