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16 Apr, 2016 10:29

Turkish court backs blocking of Sputnik news agency website

A Turkish district court approved a government order to block internet access in the country to the website of the Russian news agency Sputnik. It also passed a similar ruling concerning another news agency called Dicle.

Turkey's Golbasi District court agreed with the government's assumption that the two agencies along with a number of Twitter users were posing a threat to Turkey's national security and promoting violence and crime, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The Sputnik website was blocked by Turkey's Telecommunications Authority (TIB) on Thursday without a warning. It's the latest in a long string of media outlets targeted by President Recep Erdogan's government. Last month, Turkey's largest opposition newspaper Zaman was forced to change its management and align editorial policy with the official line in a move that sparked mass protests in the country.

Erdogan's apparent distaste for independent media extends to other nations as well. Ankara complained about a satirical video shown on the broadcaster ZDF, which included a poem insulting the Turkish president. Berlin said it was considering opening a criminal case after the complaint.

Ankara is putting increasing pressure on journalists unopposed by the US and the EU, Chris Hedges, war correspondent and former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times, told RT.

“Journalists have been charged not just with violating censorship laws but with terrorism itself. Newspapers have been taken over. Basic social media, like Facebook have been shutdown. The Russian news agency was shut down,” he said. “They really seem at the point of shutting out any kind of independent press reporting or monitoring. Not only within Turkey but within the wider region.”

“The Turkish press, certainly when I covered the Middle East, was good and vigorous and it is just tragic to see what has happened to it,” he added.

The Turkish government is brushing aside foreign and domestic criticism of its policies, including the violent crackdown on the Kurdish minority, alleged mistreatment of refugees, the crackdown on the media and suspected support of radical militants, including terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in neighboring Syria.

The EU is depending on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to Europe, while the US needs Turkish logistical support to continue its anti-IS campaign in Syria and Iraq.