ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Russia’s government-owned Sputnik news agency was to shut down its Kurdish language website at the end of this month, a source who asked not to be named told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday.
“The decision from Moscow to end our online Kurdish service came very abruptly. I believe pressure from Ankara led to this as colleagues in Moscow suggest,” the source said, pointing out at warming ties between Turkey and Russia.
An editor in the Russian capital refused to be contacted by Kurdistan 24 to speak on the matter.
Based in Istanbul, “Sputnik Kurdistan” went online as the successor of the now-defunct Radio Voice of Russia in Kurdish in 2015 at a time Kurds came to worldwide prominence as the war against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria raged on.
Although Russian state media’s coverage of Kurdish affairs changed in line with Moscow’s up and down ties with Ankara, Sputnik in Kurdish remained as one of the few news sources in Turkey independent of the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At least 11 reporters and media workers would be laid off when the closure comes into effect on June 30, the source said.
Online foreign media in Turkish and Kurdish languages have become an alternative news source for many people in Turkey as the public-funded Turkish media’s policy and privately-owned newspapers, as well as television channels, came under the control of figures close to the government.
An ongoing crackdown on the media has seen the jailing of at least 160 media workers in the past several years with Kurdish journalists and news outlets charged with accusations of “terrorist propaganda.”
Last year, Turkey’s state regulator of media took down the transmission of three Kurdistan Region-based news channels from the national satellite provider Turksat, including that of Kurdistan 24.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany