Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed a fine on the pro-opposition Tele1, Halk TV, KRT and Flash Haber TV stations due to the remarks of two opposition politicians on a court decision in a trial concerning the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013, Turkish Minute reported, citing a RTÜK member.
An İstanbul court on April 25 sentenced businessman and rights defender Osman Kavala, who had been behind bars without a conviction for over four years, to aggravated life on charges of “attempting to topple the government,” while sentencing seven other defendants to 18 years each on charges of aiding the attempt.
RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Tuesday said in a series of tweets that the council decided by a majority vote to impose a fine on four TV stations for broadcasting the remarks of CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Özgür Özel and Ahmet Şık, an investigative journalist and a lawmaker from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), on the Gezi Park trial verdict.
According to Taşçı, the fine was imposed on the Tele1, Halk TV, KRT and Flash Haber TV channels on the grounds that the remarks of Özel and Şık on the Gezi Park trial verdict “humiliated” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Taşçı said RTÜK’s punishment of pro-opposition TV channels, which are due to remarks that the AKP government doesn’t like, aims to pressure those stations into not broadcasting statements from opposition politicians.
“The aim is not to let anyone hear, know about the truth! Pressure on the media has been extended to the statements of politicians,” he added.
The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) also criticized RTÜK’s decision in a written statement released on their website on Wednesday, saying that it was “against the constitution, press freedom and freedom of expression” and showed once again that “all of RTÜK’s activities were based on protecting the interests of the government.”
“RTÜK should stop imposing fines on behalf of the government,” they added.
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.