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 dw.com domain was replaced by proxies such as dwturkce.com and inspiredminds.de, 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.