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.


Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media

Updated 59 min 5 sec ago

Algerian influencers jailed over student scam: media

  • The charges were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering
  • All three are well-known in the North African country

ALGIERS: Two Algerian social media influencers were sentenced on appeal Tuesday to a year each in prison, with six months suspended, over a scam targeting students seeking education abroad, local media reported.
Among the charges faced by Farouk Boudjemline, known as Rifka, and Mohamed Aberkane, alias Stanley, were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering.
Their co-accused Numidia Lezoul faced the same charges but was acquitted.
All three are well-known in the North African country, and were originally sentenced to one year each and fined the equivalent of 650 euros for promoting the “Future Gate” agency.
This had defrauded many Algerians wishing to study abroad, particularly in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.
It charged students large sums to arrange their university registration and provide accommodation, but left them to their fate once there.
Oussama Rezagui, the head of the agency, was given a six-year jail sentence, reduced on appeal from seven years, and a heavy fine.


Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst

Updated 08 August 2022

Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani signed by beIN Sports as analyst

  • He joins the broadcaster in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and will work with its media team in the Middle East and North Africa on flagship channel beIN Sports

LONDON: Former Saudi footballer Yasser Al-Qahtani is joining global sports, media and entertainment group beIN’s line-up of talent, the broadcaster announced on Monday.

A former captain of the Saudi national team, he played for several Arab clubs including Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Hilal in the Kingdom, and Al-Ain in the UAE.

Al-Qahtani said he is happy to be joining the beIN team, especially in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off Nov. 21. Saudi Arabia will be one of the 32 teams competing as the finals of the competition are held for the first time in the region.

“I hope this step will be a good addition for viewers, especially with beIN’s existing line-up of top sports analysts,” he said.

He will work with the broadcaster’s media team in the Middle East and North Africa as a football analyst on flagship sports channel beIN Sports.

“Al-Qahtani joins our line-up of best-in-class analysts, with many more noteworthy talent announcements, across the board, to be revealed shortly,” said Tareq Zainal, beIN’s chief financial and human resources officer.

“The new appointment comes at a truly exceptional time in our company’s history, as we’re working around the clock to exclusively broadcast the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the world’s greatest and biggest show, across the region later this year.”

The Asian Football Confederation’s Asian Footballer of the Year in 2007, Al-Qahtani scored 172 goals in 354 professional appearances during an 18-year career, the highlights of which included playing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, during which he scored a goal against Tunisia. He was also the top scorer during the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, and played for the Saudi national team for more than 11 years.


Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

Updated 08 August 2022

Musk says Twitter deal should go ahead if it provides proof of real accounts

  • Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company

LONDON: Elon Musk said that if Twitter Inc. could provide its method of sampling 100 accounts and how it confirmed that the accounts are real, his $44 billion deal to buy the company should proceed on its original terms.
“However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not,” Musk tweeted early on Saturday.
In response to a Twitter user asking whether the US SEC was probing “dubious claims” by the company, Musk tweeted “Good question, why aren’t they?.”
Twitter declined to comment on the tweet when contacted by Reuters.
Twitter on Thursday dismissed Musk’s claim that he was hoodwinked into signing the deal to buy the social media company, saying that it was “implausible and contrary to fact.”
“According to Musk, he — the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers — was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement. That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds,” the filing released by Twitter on Thursday said.
Musk filed a countersuit Twitter on July 29, escalating his legal fight against the social media company over his bid to walk away from the $44 billion purchase.


Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

Updated 05 August 2022

Nigeria asks Google to block banned groups from YouTube

  • Google said it already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns including a system for trained users to flag troublesome content

ABUJA: Nigeria asked Google to block the use of YouTube channels and livestreams by banned groups and terrorist organizations in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed said on Thursday.
Nigeria has been exploring ways to regulate social media usage in the country, Africa’s most populous. The country is home to millions of Internet users and platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok are popular. YouTube “channels and emails containing names of banned groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms,” Mohammed said he told Google executives in Abuja, the country’s capital.
Charles Murito, Google’s sub-Saharan African director for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the company already has measures to address the Nigerian government’s concerns.
Those measures include a system for trained users to flag troublesome content, he added. “We share the same goals and objectives,” Murito said. “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
The minister said the government was particularly concerned with online activities by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The government has labeled IPOB, a group campaigning for the secession of a southeastern region of Nigeria, a “terrorist organization.”
The YouTube concerns are part of an effort by the government, the minister said, to protect Nigerian Internet users from harmful effects of social media, especially ahead of a presidential election next year.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 and blocked access to users after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists.
The government lifted the Twitter ban six months later.

Related


Twitter says Elon Musk making up excuses to breach deal

Updated 05 August 2022

Twitter says Elon Musk making up excuses to breach deal

  • Musk wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but in July announced he was ending the agreement
  • The Tesla boss has accused the firm of misleading him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Twitter on Thursday said the notion Elon Musk was “hoodwinked” into inking a $44 billion buyout deal defies reason and the facts.
In a filing, Twitter rejected counter claims made by Musk as he fights to walk away from the deal he inked in April to buy the San Francisco-based company.
“According to Musk, he — the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers — was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement,” Twitter said.
“That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds.”
Musk last week filed a countersuit along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the takeover deal.
“The counterclaims are a made-for-litigation tale that is contradicted by the evidence and common sense,” Twitter argued in the filing.
A five-day trial that will consider Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk has been scheduled for October 17.
The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was ending their agreement because the firm had misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.
Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.06 on Thursday, has stuck by its estimates that less than 5 percent of the activity on the platform is due to software “bots” rather than people.
Twitter told the court that Musk’s claim that the false account figure tops 10 percent is “untenable.”
The company also disputed Musk’s assertion that he has the right to walk away from the deal if Twitter’s bot count is found to be wrong since he didn’t ask anything about bots when he made the buyout offer.
“Musk forwent all due diligence — giving Twitter twenty-four hours to accept his take-it-or-leave-it offer before he would present it directly to Twitter’s stockholders,” the filing said.
The company accused Musk of contriving a story to escape a merger agreement that he no longer found attractive.
“Twitter has complied in every respect with the merger agreement,” the company said in the filing made to Chancery Court in the state of Delaware.
“Musk’s counterclaims, based as they are on distortion, misrepresentation, and outright deception, change nothing.”
The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.
“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a letter to investors.
Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.