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Turkey blocks Saudi and Emirati state news websites

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 8, 2019. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV - AFP)

Turkish authorities blocked Saudi and United Arab Emirates state news websites on Sunday, days after the sites of Turkey’s state broadcaster and news agency were blocked in Saudi Arabia.

The apparently reciprocal moves come four weeks after Turkish prosecutors indicted 20 Saudis over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a killing that soured relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

Internet users in Turkey trying to access the sites of Saudi news agency SPA, the UAE’s WAM news agency and more than a dozen other sites saw a message saying that they were blocked under a law governing internet publications in Turkey.

A spokesman at Turkey’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on the actions and Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Turkish website of the UK-based Independent newspaper, which is operated by a Saudi company, was one of the sites to be blocked on Sunday, in a move that its editor said reflected political tensions between Riyadh and Ankara.

“We believe the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey reflected on us,” editor Nevzat Cicek told Reuters. Sunday’s decision appeared to be “retaliation against Saudi Arabia”, he said.

Earlier this month Saudi Arabia banned Turkish state news agency Anadolu, along with the website of state broadcaster TRT.

According to Anadolu, the Saudi-based newspaper al-Marsad said on April 11 that it “knew from its sources that many Turkish media outlets have been blocked”.

“One of these blocked media outlets is Anadolu Agency,” al-Marsad reported.

Riyadh’s move to block the sites came after the Istanbul prosecutor’s office announced last month that it had prepared an indictment against 20 suspects over the killing of Khashoggi, including the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s general intelligence and a former royal adviser.

The prosecutor’s office said the indictment accuses Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani of having “instigated premeditated murder with monstrous intent”.

Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 caused a global uproar, tarnishing the image of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Some Western governments, as well as the CIA, said they believed MBS ordered the killing – an accusation Saudi officials have denied.

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