Turkish prosecutor launches probe into FOX TV anchor over critical report on Mersin hospital

A Turkish public prosecutor’s office in İstanbul has launched an investigation into prominent news anchor Fatih Portakal, who presents FOX TV news, due to a critical report about a state-run hospital in Mersin, the Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

The investigation was launched based on a complaint from lawyers at the Turkish Health Ministry. FOX TV’s responsible manager, İbrahim Onur Kumbaracıbaşı, is also being investigated over the same complaint.

Portakal and Kumbaracıbaşı are accused of insulting and slandering state organs.

In a message from his Twitter account on Wednesday, Portakal wrote: “The insult and slander case against me was launched by the Health Ministry. I am not surprised; I was expecting this because it was me who first launched the insult case against [development] minister Lütfi Elvan. Just like it is with every story, I am also behind this story. Damn those who avoid engaging in journalism due to their fears of you.”

In the news report that prompted the investigation into Portakal and Kumbaracıbaşı, complaints from patients are presented about the enormity of Mersin City Hospital and how difficult it is to get from one place to another in the hospital.

A man using a cane is seen telling the FOX TV reporter that he had to walk a long distance in order to undergo an MRI scan in the hospital.

Development Minister Elvan, who was angry about the report, accused FOX TV of preparing the report on the hospital based on orders from some circles to denigrate the government.

In response, Portakal challenged the minister to prove his claim, or else he was going to file a case against him. Portakal filed a case against Elvan on June 1.

It is common in Turkey for journalists to be investigated and jailed for their work. Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 242 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 182 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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