Turkish broadcast regulator further stifles dissent by imposing fines on pro-opposition TV channels

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has imposed fines on broadcasters Halk TV and Tele 1, known for their critical stance against the government, in a move that is considered to have further stifled dissident voices.

According to a report by the Bianet news website, the two broadcasters were fined over their comments about the government and the armed forces. During an episode of a news program on Tele 1, a presenter said the Turkish police had the authority to comfortably enter Alevi houses of worship (cemevi) and pee, thanks to the authority given them by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Alevis are the largest religious minority in Turkey. Incorporating Shiite, Sufi, Sunni and local traditions, Alevism is a strain of Islam that emerged in the medieval period.

RTÜK said the presenter violated the principle that “a broadcaster cannot violate human dignity and privacy, and cannot use derogatory, insulting or defamatory expressions beyond the limits of criticism.”

It also said the presenter’s remarks were not based on any evidence or document and slandered the police force.

The other TV channel, Halk TV, was fined because during a news program a guest speaker said the armed forces and the police were almost completely purged. “We do not have a very strong state. Currently, we neither have an armed forces nor a police force that can be effective if a war breaks out,” he said. RTÜK decided that these remarks could harm the security forces’ morale and fined the channel on those grounds.

RTÜK has imposed TL 11 million ($ 1.6 million) over the last year and a half in fines on TV channels with critical stances towards the government.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşcı said between January 1, 2019 and May 15, 2020, broadcasters that are critical of the government received 36 fines, while pro-government channels only received two official warnings, the mildest sanction.

In addition Fox TV’s popular news hour hosted by anchor Fatih Portakal was temporarily removed from the air three times.

A total of 27 such bans were imposed on shows broadcast on Halk TV, KRT and Tele 1, along with Fox TV.

“It is obvious which broadcasters are protected and which ones are under pressure,” Taşcı told Sözcü, adding that RTÜK has been using punitive measures as a weapon against those whose broadcasts upset the government.

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