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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog imposes program ban, fine on pro-opposition Halk TV

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The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s government regulator for broadcasting, has imposed a five-time program ban as well as an upper limit fine on the government-critical Halk TV over comments made in news programs, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

The sanction was imposed over the content of two separate news programs, the first of which aired on September 1 and contained remarks made by journalist Ayşenur Arslan on a suicide bombing that took place in the capital city of Ankara. Arslan was briefly detained following her comments.

The second content that triggered the sanction concerned the Golden Orange Film Festival in Antalya, where the censorship of a documentary film about the plight of post-coup purge victims recently caused controversy. RTÜK said the Halk TV program contained comments that were “baselessly accusatory of the state.”

It is common for pro-opposition news channels in Turkey to face restrictions on their broadcasting through sanctions imposed by RTÜK, whose board members are appointed in proportion to the seat numbers of political parties in the parliament, meaning that the agency is currently dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Sanctions often include temporary broadcast bans and fines, and the repetition of certain sanctions may lead to the revocation of the station’s broadcasting license. In recent years, new legislation also enabled RTÜK to oversee online streaming platforms such as Netflix and order them to remove content.

After a failed coup in July 2016, the Turkish government summarily shut down nearly 200 media outlets due to their alleged links to terrorism or their alleged involvement in terrorist propaganda. The post-coup crackdown also included the detention of dozens of journalists, which briefly made Turkey the second worst jailer of journalists in the world after China. Turkey is ranked 165th among 180 countries in the 2023 edition of Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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