Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog imposes millions in fines on government-critical media

According to a recent statement by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Utku Çakırözer, Turkey’s broadcasting regulator, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed millions in fines on news channels critical of the government. 

RTÜK imposed 22 million Turkish lira (around $761,000) in fines on Halk TV, TELE1, Flash News, KRT and Fox in the first 11 months of this year. The fines were imposed for news content that criticized the high cost of living and low wages and pensions. 

Çakırözer criticized RTÜK, saying its purpose was not to oppress the media through fines and sanctions but to protect press freedom. “RTÜK is not a judicial body and should not have the power to punish organizations for their work,” said Çakırözer. “These fines are completely unfair and a serious blow to the independent media. If they continue to operate in this manner, unfortunately things will only get worse.” 

It is common for pro-opposition news channels in Turkey to face restrictions on their broadcasting through sanctions imposed by RTÜK, whose board members are appointed in proportion to the seat numbers of political parties in parliament, meaning that the agency is currently dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Sanctions often include temporary broadcast bans and fines, and the repetition of certain sanctions may lead to the revocation of the station’s broadcasting license. In recent years, new legislation also enabled RTÜK to oversee online streaming platforms such as Netflix and order them to remove content.

After a failed coup in July 2016, the Turkish government summarily shut down nearly 200 media outlets due to their alleged links to terrorism or their alleged involvement in terrorist propaganda. The post-coup crackdown also included the detention of dozens of journalists, which briefly made Turkey the second worst jailer of journalists in the world after China. Turkey is ranked 165th among 180 countries in the 2023 edition of Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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