Turkey granted its radio and television watchdog sweeping oversight over online content, including streaming platforms and online news outlets, a move raising concern over possible censorship.
The move was initially approved by Turkey’s parliament in March last year, with support from President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party and its nationalist ally.
The regulation, published in Turkey’s Official Gazette on Thursday, mandates all online content providers to obtain broadcasting licenses from RTUK, which will supervise content put out by providers.
Aside from streaming giant Netflix, other platforms like local streaming websites PuhuTV and BluTV, which produce popular shows, will be subject to supervision and potential fines or loss of license.
In addition to subscription services like Netflix, free online news outlets which rely on advertising revenue will be subject to the same measures.
“The aim of this regulation is to establish the methods and principles to regulate the presentation and provision of radio, television and on-demand broadcast services, the handing of broadcast licenses to media service providers, the granting of broadcasting authorities to platform administrators and the supervision of the broadcasts in question,” the regulation said.
It said content providers who do not comply with the regulation and RTUK’s guidelines would be given 30 days to adjust content to required standards or face having licenses suspended for three months and later cancelled. Thursday’s announcement did not specify what standards the watchdog would expect.
A spokeswoman for Netflix in Turkey said the platform was following developments and wanted to continue providing content for Turkey.
Yaman Akdeniz, law professor and cyber security expert at Istanbul Bilgi University, said the move went against Turkey’s recently announced judicial reforms which aimed to address EU concerns about deteriorating human rights.
“The regulation granting RTUK the authority to censor the internet came into effect today. Soon, access to the Netflix platform or to news outlets broadcasting from abroad could be blocked,” Akdeniz wrote on Twitter.
Critics voiced concerns the move will allow government to tighten its grip on media, largely under the influence of Erdogan and his AK Party.
Kerem Altiparmak, a human rights lawyer, said the move was the “biggest step in Turkish censorship history” adding all outlets producing opposition news would be affected.
“Everyone who produces alternative news and broadcasts will be impacted by this regulation,” Altiparmak wrote on Twitter. “Every news report that can be against the government will be taken under control.”