(CNN)Turkey has blocked access to the Turkish websites of foreign media Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, the country’s media watchdog announced on Friday.
A statement released by the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) said the two outlets did not comply with “the law” and did not apply for a license within the required period. It said the pair were both told they needed a broadcasting license in February.
The RTUK argued the two websites needed broadcasting license because because they have “program” sections.
Deutsche Welle is German public, state-owned international broadcaster, funded by German taxpayers. Voice of America is run by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a government agency which is funded by the US Congress. The two websites have not been accessible in Turkey since Thursday.
DW said in a statement that it did not comply with the rules because “licensing would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content.”
DW Director General Peter Limbourg said the company explained to RTUK why they “could not apply for such a license.”
“Media licensed in Turkey are required to delete online content that RTUK interprets as inappropriate. This is simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster,” he said in a statement published by DW.
The news organization said it would take legal action against the block.
Voice of America’s Acting Director Yolanda López said the network “firmly objects” to RTUK’s decision, which she described as “a thinly veiled effort to censor unfavorable press coverage.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Gulnoza Said criticized the decision to block the websites and urged RTUK to reverse it.
“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,” she said in a statement.
RTUK said it operates on legal grounds and that there was no need for anyone “to worry unnecessarily regarding freedom of expression and press.”
Turkey is ranked 149 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
RSF said press freedom has been quashed under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with journalists routinely prosecuted and jailed for doing their jobs.
“No less than 200 journalists were prosecuted, and 70 journalists were sentenced on similar charges since Erdogan was elected President in August 2014.”
With 90% of the country’s national media under government control, international media including DW and Voice of America have become key sources of independent information, RSF added.
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