Anti-gov’t TV station fined due to remarks of former minister against headscarf freedom

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed an administrative fine on the anti-government Halk TV due to the remarks of a former minister on the station who questioned headscarf freedom for civil servants, according to Turkish media reports.

RTÜK fined Halk TV, which is close to Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), for airing the remarks of former Culture Minister Fikri Sağlar during a program on Dec. 30. The RTÜK members made their Halk TV decision unanimously.

Sağlar, a former deputy from the CHP, attracted widespread criticism when he said in remarks on Halk TV that he doubted he would be given a fair trial if he appeared before a judge who wears a “turban.”

He said the problem is not with headscarves but with turbans. Turkey’s secularists have been differentiating between the words headscarf and turban, seeing the latter as the symbol of political Islam, while the former is considered an accessory traditionally worn by Turkish women.

“The headscarf is a traditional part of the clothing worn in Anatolia for centuries. There is a difference [between headscarf and turban]. I am speaking about my own experience. If I appear before a judge who wears a turban, I would doubt that she’d protect my rights and deliver justice. I have in fact experienced this,” said Sağlar.

RTÜK said Halk TV violated the RTÜK law by allowing the former minister to insult the religious values held by the majority of the people in the country and not warning him about it during the program.

An investigation has been also launched into Sağlar by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over his remarks about headscarf freedom.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month criticized RTÜK for contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

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