Turkey’s RTÜK threatens to punish TV stations if they cover ongoing wildfires

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has issued written and verbal warnings to TV stations in the country, threatening them with punishment if they cover wildfires that have been raging on Turkey’s southern and western coasts since last Wednesday, according to an opposition lawmaker, Turkish Minute reported.

The claim was made by Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker İlhan Taşçı, who is also a member of RTÜK, in a tweet on Tuesday.

Taşçı claimed that RTÜK chairman Ebubekir Şahin sent the warning to the managers of TV stations and told them they would be given the harshest punishment possible if they cover the ongoing wildfires. Şahin allegedly told the managers to only show the areas where the flames have been brought under control and explain to the public how successfully the fires were contained in those areas.

According to Şahin, airing footage of the ongoing wildfires is the kind of broadcasting that is expected by people who want to see chaos in the country.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have been facing increased criticism over the apparent poor response and inadequate preparedness for the large-scale wildfires, which have so far claimed the lives of nine people.

As residents lost homes and livestock, anger turned toward the government, which admitted that it did not have a usable firefighting aircraft fleet. Opposition parties accused the government of failing to procure firefighting planes and instead spending money on construction projects that they say are harmful to the environment.

According to a Human Rights Watch report in December 2020, RTÜK is contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

Broadcasting bans and fines are used by RTÜK to punish TV stations that are critical of the AKP government.

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