OSCE voices concern over ban on Ahval, makes call on Turkey for freedom

Referring to Turkish government's recent decision to block access to Ahval News website from Turkey, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir renewed his warning to the Turkish parliament about legislation that might restrict internet freedom.

Turkey blocked access to Ahval news website on March 1st following a decision by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, a division of the Ministry for Transportation, Maritime Affairs, and Communication.

No reason has been given for the government ban, which Ahval is planning to appeal in the courts.

The OSCE on Feb. 28 recommended the Turkish parliament refrain from adopting legislation that might go to a vote as soon as this week to grant Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) the authority to regulate every kind of internet broadcasting.

In a letter to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir said: "The bill could potentially restrict online broadcasting and limit content pluralism online. It is also questionable whether the bill is compatible with international treaties.”

If passed, the law could affect social media, as well as prominent internet broadcasters such as YouTube and Netflix. Opposition lawmakers opposed the changes, which they said were draconian and amounted to censorship.

Finance Minister Naci Ağbal rejected criticism of the legislation saying the playing field for all types of broadcasters should be level.

Ahval was established in November 2017 with a team of Turkish and foreign editors. Some of most prominent commentators, columnists and reporters contribute to Ahval. It is independent news and analysis portal in English, Turkish and Arabic with a focus on Turkey.