‘Visually approving of terrorism’ among reasons for fines on 3 Turkish TV stations

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has imposed a fine on three TV stations critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for reasons that include “visually approving of terrorism,” Turkish Minute reported, citing a member of the watchdog has announced.

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Wednesday in a series of tweets that the council decided by a majority vote to impose a fine on Tele1, Halk TV and Fox TV, in addition to temporarily halting the broadcast of one of Halk TV’s programs for “visually approving of terrorism.”

According to Taşçı, the fine imposed on Tele1 was because the recent conviction of İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on insult charges was described as “a blow to the people’s will” during one of its programs.

An İstanbul court last week sentenced İmamoğlu, from the CHP and a key opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to more than two years in prison and barred him from politics for allegedly insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK).

The sentence and the political ban must be upheld by an appeals court after a petition is filed.

Fox TV was also hit with a fine because Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) spokesperson Sera Kadıgil said during one of its programs that Erdoğan would be ashamed to make positive comments about the Turkish economy if he were to shop at a farmers market, according to Taşçı.

Taşçı further stated that the fines imposed by RTÜK were an important indicator of the AKP government’s “pursuit to drown Turkey in darkness and silence” ahead of the elections slated for June 2023.

“What is demanded from the media is not to cover the inflation that has reached 150 percent in the country, not to criticize the government and not to announce the solutions proposed by the opposition to the public,” he added.

RTÜK 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.

The AKP government shuttered 60 TV and radio stations by decree during a state of emergency imposed after an abortive putsch in July 2016.

The government has also played an active role in the takeover of big media outlets since 2007 by companies that it considers friendly. Under new ownership, the media outlets have tailored their coverage to avoid criticism of the government, and in some cases, acted as direct mouthpieces for the presidency.

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