RTÜK fines 4 TV stations for airing politician’s remarks on Erdoğan ‘escape’ plan

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed a fine on four TV stations for airing the remarks of main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was planning to flee the country with his family in the event of an election defeat, Turkish media reported on Monday, citing a RTÜK member.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Monday said in a series of tweets that the council decided by a majority vote to impose a fine on Tele1, Halk TV, KRT TV and Flash TV for broadcasting a video posted on Twitter by Kılıçdaroğlu last week in which he gave details of his allegations about Erdoğan.

Kılıçdaoğlu claimed that Erdoğan and people in his close circle, including his family members, are planning to flee Turkey and that 1 billion lira ($61.6 million) had been transferred to the United States through the pro-government Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) and the Ensar Foundation to help to obtain residence and work permits in the US.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims were immediately denied by Erdoğan and AKP officials, who accused him of trying to defame the president.

“This decision is a blow to freedom of the press and the people’s right to information… RTÜK is intimidating the broadcasters, telling them they will face penalties and censorship if they broadcast Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks, even if he has documents [proving his allegations] and his claims are true,” tweeted Taşçı.

RTÜK also imposed a fine on FOX TV due to a protest staged by anchor Selçuk Tepeli, who  stormed off the set after presenting a news report about farmers. The story concerned fields taken away from farmers by the government in the Silivri district of İstanbul, according to another RTÜK member, Onur Konuralp.

“Half the people who were involved in farming in this country have left this business,” he said angrily as he was leaving the studio.

Tepeli’s protest has found extensive support on social media as many people accuse Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of finishing off agriculture in the country through their policies and making Turkey dependent on foreign countries even for essential items such as wheat and hay.

President Erdoğan’s AKP government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed, while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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.

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