Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America

A reflected view of the exterior of the US Agency for Global Media building, where government funded media company Voice of America is based. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 July 2022

Turkey blocks access to Deutsche Welle and Voice of America

  • An Ankara court ruled to restrict access to their websites late Thursday
  • Deutsche Welle said it did not comply with the licensing requirement because it “would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content”

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s media watchdog has banned access to the Turkish services of US public service broadcaster Voice of America and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, prompting complaints of censorship.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television enforced a February warning to the two companies which air Turkish-language television content online to apply for a broadcast license or be blocked. An Ankara court ruled to restrict access to their websites late Thursday.
Neither website was available in Turkey on Friday. Deutsche Welle is German taxpayer-funded and Voice of America is funded by the US government through the US Agency for Global Media.
In a statement, Deutsche Welle said it did not comply with the licensing requirement because it “would have allowed the Turkish government to censor editorial content.”
Director general Peter Limbourg said this was explained in detail to the Turkish radio and TV board, abbreviated as RTUK.
“For example, media licensed in Turkey are required to delete online content that RTUK interprets as inappropriate. This is simply unacceptable for an independent broadcaster. DW will take legal action against the blocking that has now taken place,” Limbourg said.
The German government said it took note of the reports “with regret.”
“Our concern about the state of freedom of opinion and the press in Turkey continues,” government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said, adding that Germany is in a “regular, critical exchange” with Turkey on the issue.
Asked whether the German government can intervene in this case, Hebestreit noted that Deutsche Welle has said it plans to take legal action “and we have to wait for that.”
RTUK dismissed any criticism in a statement on its website Friday, saying that “no one needs to have uncertainties on the freedom of expression or press, worry unnecessarily or incriminate our Supreme Board that is doing its duties based on legal grounds.”
The RTUK statement added that had the media organizations “acted in line with regulations,” there wouldn’t have been access bans. It also promised to request from the court that the restrictions be revoked if the websites launch companies in Turkey and get licensed.
But Ilhan Tasci, a RTUK member from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, said he opposed the move to block the two foreign broadcasters. “Here is press freedom and advanced democracy,” he tweeted sarcastically.
The RTUK board is dominated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist allies, and regularly fines critical broadcasters.
Thursday’s move is based on an August 2019 regulation that says the RTUK would give 72-hour advance notice to unlicensed online media regarding when they had to apply and pay three months of licensing fees. Failure to do so could result in legal action against a media organization’s executives and access restrictions.
In February, RTUK said it identified three websites without broadcast licenses, which also included the Turkish services of Euronews. But Euronews said it argued that it did not broadcast live in Turkish or air visual bulletins and was therefore exempt from the licensing requirements.
The Journalists’ Union of Turkey called the decision censorship. “Give up on trying to ban everything you don’t like, this society wants freedom,” it tweeted.
Voice of America noted in February that while licensing for TV and radio broadcasts is a norm because broadcast airwaves are finite resources, the Internet does not have limited bandwidth. “The only possible purpose of a licensing requirement for Internet distribution is enabling censorship,” VOA said in a statement then.
State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted when the licensing regulation emerged in February that the US was concerned with RTUK’s “decision to expand government control over free press outlets.”
In response, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic noted that the US required Turkey’s state English-language broadcaster, TRT World, to register as a foreign agent under a law intended for lobbyists and public relations firms working for foreign governments. TRT said it was newsgathering and reporting like any other international media but had to register as a foreign agent in 2020.
“TRT abides by relevant regulations for its activities in the US Is that censorship? We expect the same from @VoATurkish and others,” Bilgic tweeted.
Turkey was rated “Not Free” for 2021 on the Freedom of the Net index by Freedom House. Hundreds of thousands of domains and web addresses have been blocked.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey at 149 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, saying “all possible means are used to undermine critics,” including stripping journalists of press cards, online censorship, lawsuits and arrests.


Russia’s watchdog imposes measures against TikTok, Telegram, Zoom, Discord, Pinterest

Updated 19 August 2022

Russia’s watchdog imposes measures against TikTok, Telegram, Zoom, Discord, Pinterest

  • Russia's watchdog Roskomnadzor fined the companies for failing to remove content that it had flagged as illegal

MOSCOW: Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said on Friday that it was taking punitive measures against a string of foreign IT companies, including TikTok, Telegram, Zoom, Discord and Pinterest.
In a statement, Roskomnadzor said that the measures were in response to the companies’ failure to remove content that it had flagged as illegal, and would remain in place until they complied. It did not specify what measures would be taken.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to fine sites — including Google, that violate harsh new laws criminalizing the spreading of “false information” about the Russian army.
On Tuesday, Russian courts fined US-based live streaming service Twitch 2 million roubles ($33,000) and messenger service Telegram 11 million roubles ($179,000) for violating military censorship laws.


Elon Musk targets ad tech firms in Twitter suit over takeover deal

Updated 19 August 2022

Elon Musk targets ad tech firms in Twitter suit over takeover deal

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is attempting to walk away from his deal to acquire Twitter Inc. , is seeking documents from advertising technology firms as part of his quest to gain more information on bot and spam accounts on Twitter, according to filings in a Delaware court on Thursday.
Twitter has sued the Tesla chief executive, who has accused Twitter of hiding information about how it calculates the percentage of bots on the service, for attempting to walk away from the $44 billion agreement. A trial is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Musk’s lawyers have subpoenaed both Integral Ad Science (IAS) and DoubleVerify for any documents or communications on their involvement in reviewing accounts or participation in any audit of Twitter’s user base.
IAS and DoubleVerify, which are both based in New York, use technology to independently verify that digital ads are viewed by real people. Advertisers use the services to ensure the ads they pay for are seen by potential customers and not automated bots.


Twitter, IAS and DoubleVerify did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In response to a tweet by a user who questioned how Twitter audits its service and also linked to a Reuters story on Musk targeting the ad firms, Musk tweeted: “Those are the questions that Twitter is doing everything possible to avoid answering …“
In a countersuit earlier this month, Musk claimed that Twitter’s monetizable daily active users are 65 million lower than what the company has touted. Twitter has said it stands by its disclosures.
The metric measures users who log onto Twitter through the website or apps that are able to serve ads or used paid products like subscriptions, according to Twitter filings.


Apple warns of security flaw for iPhones, iPads and Macs

Updated 19 August 2022

Apple warns of security flaw for iPhones, iPads and Macs

  • Apple released two security reports about the issue on Wednesday

SAN FRANCISCO: Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of these devices.

The company said it is “aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.”

Apple released two security reports about the issue on Wednesday, although they didn’t receive wide attention outside of tech publications.

Security experts have advised users to update affected devices — the iPhones6S and later models; several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models and the iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running MacOS Monterey. It also affects some iPod models.

Apple’s explanation of the vulnerability means a hacker could get “full admin access to the device” so that they can “execute any code as if they are you, the user,” said Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security.

Those who should be particularly attentive to updating their software are “people who are in the public eye” such as activists or journalists who might be the targets of sophisticated nation-state spying, Tobac said.


StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait

Updated 18 August 2022

StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait

  • The telecoms company’s subscribers on selected plans will get free access to the streaming service
  • StarzPlay is one of Virgin’s first partners in Kuwait to offer free subscriptions bundled with mobile plans

DUBAI: Streaming platform StarzPlay has partnered with Virgin Mobile to offer the telecoms company’s subscribers in Kuwait free access to its library of movies and TV shows.

Virgin Mobile users who sign up for selected monthly, six-monthly or annual plans will receive a free StarzPlay subscription. The cost of eligible mobile plans range from 7 Kuwaiti dinars ($23) to 19 dinars a month.

StarzPlay is one of Virgin Mobile’s first partners in Kuwait to offer free subscriptions bundled with mobile plans as a value-added benefit for customers.

“Bolstering our telcos (telecommunications companies) portfolio has been a strong focus for us from the start,” said Raghida Abou Fadel, StarzPlay’s senior vice-president of business development and sales. “Virgin Mobile has been a strong partner for us across the region.”

Last year, for example, StarzPlay partnered with Virgin Mobile in Saudi Arabia to offer free subscriptions to customers with selected plans.

“We want to make content easily accessible for our subscribers in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, and partnering with local telco players offers us a great opportunity to reach and connect with newer audiences,” said Abou Fadel.

Benoit Janin, the CEO of Virgin Mobile, said: “Our continued partnership with StarzPlay highlights our commitment to providing excellence and additional benefits to our customers and we are excited to extend this partnership in Kuwait.”

StarzPlay is home to original shows such as “Baghdad Central,” “Power,” and “Vikings,” among others. It also offers Western classics such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Office,” as well as Arabic and anime content.

It ranks among the region’s top three subscription video-on-demand services, according to the company, and is available in 19 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

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CNN cancels ‘Reliable Sources,’ host Stelter leaving network

Updated 18 August 2022

CNN cancels ‘Reliable Sources,’ host Stelter leaving network

  • The show will have its last broadcast this Sunday.
  • CNN has been looking to cut costs but also to put forth a less opinionated product

NEW YORK: CNN has canceled its weekly “Reliable Sources” show on the media, and said Thursday that its host, Brian Stelter, is leaving the network.
The show will have its last broadcast this Sunday.
CNN has been looking to cut costs but also to put forth a less opinionated product. Stelter has written a book, “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” and been critical of Fox News, making him a frequent target of the CNN’s conservative critics.
Stelter came to CNN from The New York Times, where he was a media writer.
“He departs CNN as an impeccable broadcaster,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development at CNN. “We are proud of what Brian and his team accomplished over the years, and we’re confident their impact and influence will long outlive the show.”
Stelter said that he was grateful for his nine years at CNN, proud of the show and thankful to its viewers.
“It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential,” he said. “I’ll have more to say on Sunday.”
The “Reliable Sources” newsletter, a daily compendium of the media’s big stories, will continue and will be led by CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

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