The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, has imposed penalties on the pro-opposition Halk TV due to its coverage of the handing over of the remains of a young Kurdish man to his father in a bag, a RTÜK member has announced.
Human rights advocates and some social media users in Turkey were outraged when photos of a Kurdish father, Ali Rıza Arslan, began to circulate on social media in late August showing him carrying the remains of his son in a cloth bag after leaving the Diyarbakır courthouse in southeastern Turkey.
Arslan’s son, Hakan, was killed during clashes between Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in January 2016, and his remains were returned to his father nearly seven years after his death.
RTÜK member Okan Konuralp tweeted on Wednesday that RTÜK has decided impose a fine on Halk TV and suspend five broadcasts of “Sözüm Var,” (I have something to say) hosted by journalist Şirin Payzın.
According to RTÜK, the comments made during the program about the return of the remains of Hakan Arslan to his father were “the kind of comments that could serve the goals of terrorism,” meaning the PKK, which has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.
The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Konuralp said RTÜK also imposed two other fines on the TV station on accusations of insulting Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu during two other programs, adding that he and İlhan Taşçı, a member of RTÜK from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), voted against the sanctions on Halk TV.
RTÜK is a controversial agency that 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.