Turkey Bans BBC German FM Radio Broadcasts

ISTANBUL (Reuters)–Turkey has banned Turkish language broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Germany’s Deutsche Welle on its FM radio beams–the head of the country’s media watchdog said on Thursday.

The Radio and Television High Council late on Wednesday ordered the broadcasts be stopped–saying they had violated a media law barring foreign broadcasters from Turkey’s FM frequencies–RTUK chairman Nuri Kayis told Reuters.

RTUK has considerable power over radio and television stations including the right to order blackouts.

Kayis said he had personally opposed the ban and would apply to the courts next week to have it overturned.

"Unfortunately such a thing has happened. These two companies have been banned from broadcasting," Kayis said. "I found this decision very objectionable and intend to open a case with the courts to overturn it."

Kayis did not clarify when the ban would take effect. He said it might take the courts months to rule on his appeal.

"At present the BBC Turkish service remains on the air on FM," the BBC’s Mike Gardner said. He said the BBC was aware of the RTUK order.

RTUK had ordered the BBC’s FM service–broadcast in Turkey since 1993–off the air in November 1999–but allowed it to resume broadcasting last year–Gardner said.

Deutsche Welle’s foreign language editor-in-chief–Dietrich Schlegel–said in Cologne the programs affected were the re-broadcast of Turkish-language material via the German news station NTV from inside Turkey.

Kayis worried the decision to ban two European radio broadcasters would not sit well with international public opinion.

"Turkey will be left in a difficult position globally," Kayis said. "Again Turkey will be seen as a country without freedom of expression–that it censors and is oppressive."

Turkey’s human rights record has come under intense scrutiny by the European Union–which made it a candidate for membership last year. The bloc has urged Turkey to ease restrictions on freedom of expression and carry out other political reforms.

A press freedom group said on Friday it had protested to Turkey’s media watchdog against a ban on Turkish language FM radio broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres said in a statement it had told Kayis that such a ban was an obstacle to freedom of information.

"This measure–if applied–would constitute a step backward in terms of the international commitmen’s made by Turkey," the group’s secretary-general–Robert Menard–was quoted as telling Kayis in a letter.

Reporters Sans Frontieres said it was aware of the commen’s made by Kayis–but nonetheless urged him to prevent the order being implemented.

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