Turkey blocks acccess to Voice of America, Germany's Deutsche Welle

Turkey blocked access to the websites of Voice of America and Deutsche Welle after they failed to apply for media licenses.

A decision by a court in the capital Ankara has blocked news content from the two organisations, Ilhan Taşçı, a board member of media watchdog RTÜK, said on Twitter.

"Here is your freedom of press and advanced democracy!” said Taşçı, who sits on the board as a representative of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)

Deutsche Welle and Voice of America said in February that they would not apply for the licences, as stipulated by new media regulations. Critics say the legislation aims to increase censorship of foreign and local news outlets.

Turkey is tightening regulation and control of social media. Many Turks are resorting to alternative means to access news and information after the mainstream media came largely under the control of businessmen close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Both Deutsche Welle and Voice of America provide news in the Turkish language that they say is objective and free of censorship.

RTÜK is dominated by Erdoğan's Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies. It frequently fines opposition news channels and media websites.

Freedom House has designated Turkey as “not free” in its “Freedom in the World 2022” report, which ranks countries on a variety of metrics including political pluralism and rule of law. Turkey showed the greatest decline in democracy and the rule of law in the last decade among 137 countries included in the German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) for 2022.

Turkey’s parliament, which is controlled by the AKP and MHP, is due to consider new measures on social media that foresee jail terms for so-called “fake news”. The legislation has been delayed until the Autumn ahead of the assembly’s summer recess.

Turkey, which is one of the world’s top jailers of journalists, says measures to tighten control of the media are needed because of the threats it faces to its democracy from terrorist organisations and other groups and subversives. Western governments and organisations such as the European Union have warned the government against what they term democratic backsliding, particularly since the introduction of a full presidential system of government in 2018.  

Almost three-quarters of Turks want to live in a democratic and secular country, while just 18.5 percent expressed preference for a conservative and authoritarian nation, according to a survey conducted by research company MetroPOLL in May.

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