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MLSA takes RTÜK’s censorship directive to Council of State

İstanbul – The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) has announced that it will be challenging the recent directive adopted by Turkey’s media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) which gives the body unprecedented censorship powers over internet broadcasts at the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the country.  

The regulation titled “the Directive on Radio, TV, and On-Demand Broadcasts Shared on the Internet” was adopted in September 2018 and took effect on 1 August 2019, when it was published in the Official Gazette

Speaking about MLSA’s planned action, Co-Director of the organization Veysel Ok said the directive gave RTÜK an authority beyond what is prescribed in the law. Ok said: “This directive which took effect today is in violation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to information and to spread the news. The directive makes it compulsory to obtain a license for online broadcasts, which comes with a fee, and this is an obstruction to the right to spread the news, as many journalists are now trying to report and share news on platforms they have established themselves”

Ok continued, “These journalists should not be subject to such a licensing fee. This regulation is against the rights of reporting and sharing the news and the public’s right to information protected by Constitution. There are also no standards as to what constitutes a news platform and what doesn’t, as the language used in the text is too ambitious. This supervision can at a point impact a journalist who is reporting on his website as a freelancer, or vloggers posting on YouTube. We are worried that the new directive will be used to limit the rights to freedom of expression protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of media and broadcasting protected under Articles 28 and 29 and for this reason we will be going to the Council of State demanding the cancellation of the articles of the directive that violate these aforementioned rights.”

Streaming license fees start at 10,000 Turkish Liras

The new 24-article directive includes new regulations that include online streaming platforms that provide on-demand broadcasts, such as Netflix, as well as private media providers. 

The directive, which is based on a law passed in March 2018, also gives RTÜK powers to censor online broadcasts. The directive which seeks to monitor the content of internet broadcasts including land broadcasters who have mobile applications or internet websites, makes it a prerequisite for all organizations that disseminate content online to obtain broadcasting licenses. 

The license fee for streaming radio broadcasts online is set at 10,000 Turkish Liras, while the fee for a TV streaming license is fixed as 100,000 Turkish Liras.