Turkish official bids “good riddance” to Ahval after ban

An official at the Turkish government's press department welcomed a ban on news website Ahval after it was blocked by authorities late on Wednesday.

Turkey’s communications ministry barred access to Ahval in the country citing Law 5651, introduced by parliament in February 2014 to regulate Internet broadcasting. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government has been criticised by the European Union and international human rights groups for censorship of the media and other anti-democratic steps.

“Ahval news has been sent flying, good riddance,” Sercan Dogan, who works for the prime ministry's Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM), wrote on Twitter on Thursday. Dogan's primary task is to “facilitate the activities of foreign media outlets and their employees in Turkey,” according to his LinkedIN profile.

BYEGM, established by Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1920, has refused to renew the press cards of several foreign journalists over the past few years, forcing them to leave Turkey. The cards are required to renew work permits and residency.

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

Ahval, run by veteran Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar, was established in November 2017 with a team of Turkish and foreign editors, reporters and analysts. It is independent news and analysis portal in English, Turkish and Arabic with a focus on Turkey.

Among Ahval’s long list of contributors is Nurcan Baysal, an activist and author who was handed a suspended 10-month prison sentence by a Turkish court last month for criticising the government’s treatment of the Kurdish minority. Former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış also writes editorials for the publication.

"This (the ban) is very upsetting for freedoms in Turkey," Baysal wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "This is a struggle for journalism and freedom. Long may it contiinue."

Sercan Doğan