The office of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America is seen in Washington, D.C. Turkish authorities recently blocked access to VOA and German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle's websites. (Reuters/Sarah Silbiger)

Turkey blocks websites of Voice of America and Deutsche Welle

Istanbul, July 1, 2022 –  In response to news reports that Turkish authorities blocked the websites of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America and German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“Turkish authorities’ censorship of the international broadcasters Voice of America and Deutsche Welle is the latest attempt to silence critical media as the country prepares to hold elections next year,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkish authorities should reverse the blocks on the broadcasters’ websites at once, and allow all media outlets to operate freely.”

In February, the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the Turkish government telecommunications regulator known as RTÜK, ordered VOA, DW, and the privately owned France-based outlet Euronews to apply for licenses as broadcasters, as CPJ documented at the time, noting that it was the first time the regulator had issued such a demand.

Euronews removed content from its website and changed its format to avoid the licensing requirement, news reports said. VOA and DW did not comply, and several websites affiliated with the broadcasters’ various languages were made inaccessible in Turkey on the evening of Thursday, June 30, according to those news reports and CPJ’s attempts to access the pages from Istanbul.

In a report by the German broadcaster, DW Director General Peter Limbourg said the licensing requirements would mandate that DW “delete online content that RTUK interprets as inappropriate,” which he called “simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster.” Limbourg said the broadcaster would take legal action against the block.

The U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees VOA, did not immediately comment on the incident, the broadcaster said.

In a statement, RTÜK asserted its legal authority to issue the blocks, and said access to the websites could be restored if VOA and DW applied for licenses.