Turkey bans independent news sites in latest move to silence opposition

Independent journalist Hayri Tunc first noticed his news site Gazete Fersude was blocked on July 18.

He had been running the small alternative news outlet on personal funds for about a year with a team of five editors and 15 contributors. It was one of several news sites founded to fill a coverage gap left by the shuttering of nearly 200 news outlets since a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Media freedoms have been stifled as ongoing legal proceedings have landed at least 138 Turkish journalists behind bars, according to the press monitor Platform24.

Tunc said he wasn’t notified before Fersude was blocked on Turkish servers. In the past, he received court orders regarding specific articles that would result in legal proceedings if not removed from the website. Lacking the finances to hire a lawyer, Tunc usually complied to keep the publication operating.

“We try not to challenge those requests because we’re a small outlet,” Tunc told Al-Monitor. “Is it compliance to remove content? Not really. If even one person reads our content, it’s powerful. You get the information out.”

Despite such efforts, Tunc and his editorial team eventually received a court order on July 25 that banned his and 135 other websites and social media accounts. He said he shared document with colleagues, but it was dismissed as a rumor, causing little initial reaction. Tunc responded by simply changing his site’s address from .com to .net and proceeded with his daily news coverage.

“With censorship, you have no choice but to find your way around it,” he said.

The status quo remained intact until yesterday, when the same court order was published widely in the Turkish press, sparking rebukes from media organizations and free speech advocates who claim the space for the nation’s oppositional voices has been steadily shrinking in recent years.

The ban comes after a state-funded institution published a report accusing foreign media outlets of bias in their Turkish-language coverage, and a new law was enacted requiring state-issued licenses from web streaming services and online news broadcasters operating in the country.

“These procedures seem to contribute to a major policy, to a major attempt to destroy the pluralistic nature of the media and civil society organizations,” Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders, told Al-Monitor.

Read the full story on Al Monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/08/turkey-blocks-opposition-social-media-news.html#ixzz5vz4q7J5T