RTÜK fines 3 TV stations for airing debates on crime boss’s corruption claims

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has imposed a fine on three TV stations for airing debate programs during which the inner workings of an alleged corruption network involving state officials and pro-government figures are discussed, Turkish Minute reported, citing a member of the watchdog.

Mob boss Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who has been making shocking revelations since early 2021 about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members, unveiled a new series of allegations from his Twitter handle in late August, revealing a network of bribery and corruption in Turkey’s stock exchange.

Peker said ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Zehra Taşkesenlioğlu, her brother and former Capital Markets Board (SPK) chair Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s advisor Serkan Taranoğlu and pro-government daily Hürriyet columnist Burak Taşçı were all involved in the operation of the bribery network extorting the owners of companies that are listed on the stock exchange.

Peker also pointed to Serhat Albayrak, deputy chairman of the Turkuvaz Media Group, which has close ties to Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, as “the power behind” Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu, a claim Albayrak previously denied in a statement released by his lawyer.

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Thursday said in a series of tweets that the council decided by a majority vote to impose a fine on Tele1, Halk TV and KRT TV for “humiliating” Albayrak and AKP MP Taşkesenlioğlu by airing debate programs where Peker’s claims about them were discussed.

“[I] don’t know whether to laugh or cry. … It is very meaningful for RTÜK to take action while there is always the possibility of acquittal for those who are accused of the allegations, and it is the judiciary that should [take action to] investigate the claims!” Taşçı said.

RTÜK is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.

The AKP government shuttered 60 TV and radio stations by decree during a state of emergency imposed after an abortive putsch in July 2016.

The government has also played an active role in the takeover of big media outlets since 2007 by companies that it considers friendly. Under new ownership, the media outlets have tailored their coverage to avoid criticism of the government, and in some cases, acted as direct mouthpieces for the presidency.

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