Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), imposed 1,661 fines on media organizationsin 2021, totaling TL 55.8 million ($3.7 million), yet another sign of growing censorship and dwindling freedom of the press in the country, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition reported.
RTÜK earned TL 17 million ($1.1 million] in revenue from these fines last year.
A newly published RTÜK activity report also shows the number of lawsuits the council faced due to its sanctions on media organizations.
According to the report, 236 lawsuits were filed against RTÜK in 2021 by media organizations, which challenged its decisions such as the imposition of fines or the halting of broadcasts. In 91 of these lawsuits, a court decided in favor of RTÜK, while no decision has yet been made in 134 of the cases.
One hundred forty of the lawsuits were filed against RTÜK challenging its fines, while 35 concerned its decision to halt the broadcasts of TV or radio stations; nine concerned RTÜK’s decision to cancel the broadcasting licenses of media organizations; and nine involved both a fine and a broadcasting ban.
RTÜK is a controversial agency that 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.
In 2019 Turkey revised its media regulations and granted more authority to RTÜK, allowing it to supervise online broadcasts as well.
The activity report also shows that RTÜK was the subject of 1,566 lawsuits between 2017 and 2021 regarding its decisions, with 1,153 of them concluded in favor of the media watchdog and 190 for the opposing party. The remaining lawsuits are still in court.
The report also revealed that RTÜK filed criminal complaints against 129 media organizations, individuals and social media users in 2021 due to their broadcasts.
RTÜK attracted domestic and international condemnation when in February it threatened to halt the broadcasts of three international media organizations operating in Turkey: Voice of America (VOA), the US state-owned international multimedia broadcaster; Germany’s state-run broadcaster Deutsche Welle; and the Lyon-based Euronews, if they failed to obtain broadcasting licenses before the expiration of a 72-hour deadline set by RTÜK.
The move was described by the media outlets as an attempt at censorship, while VOA and Deutsche Welle announced they will not apply for broadcasting licenses and would instead take legal action.
The Turkish editions of the three outlets are the only source of free and independent journalism for some people in Turkey, where the majority of the media is controlled by the government.