Free SpeechPress Freedom

RTÜK defends its censorship directive: media outlets are irrelevant to journalistic activities

Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) had previously filed a lawsuit regarding cancellation of regulation on authority to inspect internet platforms at the Council of State. Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) wrote a letter in response to MLSA, stating that the regulation is not about “news websites” but “media service providers.”

On August 9, MLSA applied to the Council of State with a request of cancellation and issue of stay execution of “the Directive on Radio, TV, and On-Demand Broadcasts Shared on the Internet” which was published in the Official Gazette and took effect on August 1, 2019. 

In an official letter as a response to the State of Council Presidency of the 13th Chamber,  RTÜK objected to the opinion that the license fee determined based on the directive’s first clause of Article 12 on internet broadcasts is high and disincentive violating the right to freedom of expression. The letter states that “The claims about the size of non-profit news websites being too small to produce revenue and not being able to pay the said license fee are groundless. The Directive is used for media providers not for news websites thus “media service” is irrelevant with journalistic activities. 

RTÜK stated that those who create news websites must establish a joint stock company. RTÜK further claimed that any journalist creating a news website must establish a joint stock company as per the Law no. 6112 stipulating that media providers must be joint stock companies. 

“You can choose to pay 100,000 TRY in installments – which is a small amount”

RTÜK also stated that 100,000 TRY for a 10-year license fee is not high, adding that “It is not possible and convincing for radio channels not being able to pay 10,000 TRY for a 10-year license fee and TV channels and on-demand broadcasters not being able to pay 100,000 TRY. The license fees could be paid in advance or in installments as per the directive’s fourth clause of Article 7.”

RTÜK requests the dismissal of stay of execution

RTÜK further stated that it is against the law for the administrative court to investigate this case adding “benefit” of MLSA, which was established to defend freedom of press and provide legal counsel to journalists, is not violated thus a decision regarding rejection of venue should be made. 

MLSA’s charter clearly states that it carries out legal activities. MLSA also has news web site where news about judgement and press are regularly updated.

Background of objection

On August 9, 2019 MLSA filed a lawsuit with a request of stay of execution of the “Directive on Radio, TV, and On-Demand Broadcasts Shared on the Internet” which was published in the Official Gazette no. 30849. In its complaint letter, MLSA stated that the directive is against the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). MLSA also included the fact that directive is ambitious, and this could be manipulated for censorship. It is also against the Constitution to obtain prior permission to report news on license and its fees. The permission also comes with a fee.  

MLSA’s complaint letter states that “individual communication” mentioned in the directive’s Article 4 is not clearly explained thus leading the way to unlawful practices adding that request of a license, which comes with a fee, to broadcast online is against the freedom of expression and the Constitution. 

Ankara Bar had also filed a similar lawsuit

On August 6, 2019 Ankara Bar Association had also filed a lawsuit requesting a stay of execution based on Article 2 and 4 of the said directive. In addition to the articles the Bar objected, MLSA filed a complaint against Article 7, 8 and 12 of the directive on license and fees stating they are against the Constitution.