Reasons for the government's anger at DW Turkish

Reasons for the government's anger at DW Turkish
The Turkish branch of Germany's public broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, is closing down after the Ministry of Industry and Technology declined to renew a crucial license required for operation. What is the cause of this decision, and how will it unfold? Author: Hamit Abat The primary component of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government's battle against truth has been its suppression of the media. His government first initiated this crackdown by altering the ownership structures of mainstream media outlets. Media conglomerates such as the Doğan Group were sold to pro-government businesspeople. The government perceived that these groups could have posed a "threat" even if they weren't overtly oppositional. Other media organizations were also gradually placed under the control of five large corporations – all cronies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government – which have been enriched by profitable state contracts under this administration. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) , 95% of the media in Turkey is now directly or indirectly controlled by the government. Meanwhile, financial and legal pressures are constricting the remaining media outlets. One would be hard-pressed to find an independent journalist who does not have to make a weekly visit to the courthouse as part of their job. Furthermore, there is not a single independent television station that can continue to air its programs without incurring hefty fines from the government-dominated and relentless Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). News websites made into "TV networks" overnight In this oppressive atmosphere, only two avenues allow for somewhat freer broadcasting: internet media and foreign press organizations broadcasting in Turkish. Naturally, the government had little tolerance for these as well. Initially, amendments to internet legislation were made; which were followed by restrictions imposed on internet media although these changes included for the first time issuing of "press cards" for online media employees as a "carrot," and finally, the disinformation law adopted in December 2022 substantially diminished the influence of digital media. After these measures, it was time to target foreign media organizations broadcasting in Turkish. With a regulation amendment in April 2021, RTÜK had been put in charge of supervising internet media. As a result, media outlets broadcasting from abroad that also produced video news were abruptly declared "TV organizations." AKP sparks its war on foreign media This regulation, which required websites posting or streaming video recordings to obtain a license from the RTÜK, was put on hold for a long time, ready to be activated if necessary. That is, until November 2021, when the Turkish service of the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle published a documentary entitled "The Story of the Circassians from the Caucasus to Turkey" ( In the video which covered the story of Turkey's Circassians, a representative of a local Circassian organization said: "We have been assimilated," a sentence that would spark an attack on DW Turkish. AKP spokesman Ömer Çelik criticized the video, saying: "This is not independent journalism, it is incitement journalism." A few months later, RTÜK posted a threatening announcement on its website, reminding the public of the authority it had been given a year earlier. In the "announcement" published in February 2022, RTÜK threatened DW Turkish: "Apply for a license, or else I will impose an access ban with the authority I received from the regulation," it said.
Naturally, RTÜK's intentions went beyond simply generating revenue from license fees. If foreign media organizations agreed to purchase a license, they would have to abide by RTÜK's rules. Reporting on LGBTQ+ rights in Turkey, for example, could be subject to fines under an article criminalizing "Attitudes and Behaviors Against Family Structure." Any news about the country's main Kurdish party, the People's Democracy Party (HDP), which faces an embargo in pro-government media, could be censored under the pretext of "propaganda of a terrorist organization." Underlying intent behind license imposition The February 2022 threat, "If you don't get a license, I will shut you down," remained posted on RTÜK's website for some time, as did the regulation. During this period, neither DW nor Voice of America, which had also received a similar "warning" to acquire a license, opted to apply for one. It was another video that eventually triggered RTÜK's decisive action, provoking backlash from "sensitive" conservative circles. The video, titled "Being a Sex Worker," was broadcast on the +90 channel, of which DW is a major partner, and became the target of a smear campaign for allegedly promoting prostitution. Following this video's release in June, RTÜK exercised its regulatory authority to block access to DW Turkish in July 2022, citing its lack of a license. Ministry shut DW Turkish when RTÜK couldn't In Turkey, internet access restrictions are hardly insurmountable obstacles. Internet users in Turkey are all too familiar with overcoming such barriers since the Gezi Park protests of 2013. As such, they had little difficulty accessing DW's content, relying on social media and using tools such as VPNs. After a while, the main domain was replaced by proxies such as and, allowing DW's content to freely reach its audience. The government took notice of this "leakage of light." This time, DW Turkish service was targeted by denying it its "business activity permit." The Ministry of Industry and Technology did not renew the "activity license" that DW, like any foreign company operating in Turkey, needed to obtain. The certificate, which was granted without any issues two years previously, was canceled based on negative feedback from the Presidency's Communications Directorate . As a result, DW's legal entity in Turkey came to an end.
Who will pay the real price? The timing of this decision, just a few months before elections, is undoubtedly no coincidence. So, what impact will it have? Will DW cease producing news in Turkish for Turkey? According to statements from the organization, broadcasting activities will continue. However, due to the loss of legal entity status, more than ten correspondents in Turkey will work as freelancers without social security benefits. Although subject to the Press Law, DW employees, who have been denied official press cards by the Communications Directorate for years, will now be unable to obtain even a health insurance card.

Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.