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Turkey’s RTÜK rains down sanctions on TV stations

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The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s broadcasting and streaming regulator, has imposed administrative fines and temporary broadcast halts on a number of TV stations due to their content, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

The sanctions were announced on social media by İlhan Taşcı, a member of RTÜK appointed from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Taşcı said FOX/NOW TV was slapped with a 2 percent administrative fine on one month’s advertising revenue for inaccurate reporting upon a complaint by a member of the far-right Grey Wolves group.

Another 2 percent fine was imposed on the same station for violating the “principle of impartiality and factuality,” at the request of presidential adviser Mehmet Uçum.

The agency imposed the same fine on Show TV over an “extreme emphasis on detergent and fabric softener” in a series.

“When the intent is to sanction, the pretext can be anything from coffee to detergent or softener,” Taşcı said.

Two separate 2 percent fines were imposed on the anti-government TELE 1 channel over writer Rıza Zelyurt’s comments that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines. One fine was levied for “violation of factuality,” and the other for “injury to national sentiment.”

Flash TV was given a 3 percent fine and a broadcast ban of three episodes over its news program featuring an opposition MP who criticized the AKP’s alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The channel was sanctioned for “violating the integrity of the state.”

TGRT was slapped with a 2 percent fine over Cem Küçük’s remarks revealing the name of a police officer who killed the perpetrator in a terrorist attack on an İstanbul courthouse.

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 number of seats held by political parties in parliament, meaning that the ruling AKP currently dominates the agency.

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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