Turkey's media watchdog fines broadcaster for calling forest fires 'nightmarish'

Turkey's media watchdog RTÜK has fined Fox TV after one of its reporters described the wildfires as “nightmarish.” Last week, RTÜK threatened broadcasters by saying that penalties will be imposed on those covering the wildfires without abiding by its rules.

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Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has fined Fox TV over a reporter's remarks referring to the wildfires as “nightmarish.”

The fine decision was taken during a meeting of RTÜK on Aug. 11 and was shared with the public by RTÜK member Onur Konuralp on social media.

“Due to FOX TV reporter's remarks of 'The flames are coming so fast, like a nightmare' on a live broadcast, the channel was fined,” Konuralp said.

RTÜK also released a statement saying that it has analyzed Fox TV's broadcast on wildfires for three days. The council argued that the channel's reporting was “far away from journalism at the time of a crisis, misleading about the rulership and caused panic, fear and uproar in the viewers.”

Apart from Fox TV, RTÜK also fined five other channels including KRT, Tele 1, HaberTürk, Halk TV and TR 35 over their broadcast on wildfires as well as other topics.

Last week, RTÜK threatened broadcasters by saying that penalties will be imposed on those covering the wildfires without abiding by its rules. The watchdog, known for censoring channels critical of the government, claimed that some broadcasters are trying to create chaos among the public.

Meanwhile, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People's Party (MHP), was not accepted into the meeting of the council on Aug. 11.

The proposal of RTÜK head Ebubekir Şahin in this regard was supported by members from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (CHP), Taşçı announced on social media.

Taşçı said that this decision was taken after his announcement a day earlier that RTÜK would discuss fining some of the channels during its meeting on Aug. 11.

“The reason of this [my exclusion from RTÜK meeting] is that I have unveiled the censorship attempt of the 'special line' to fire-related news and I have shared with the public that the demand of fines for fire-related news would be discussed today in the [RTÜK] Supreme Board meeting,” Taşçı said in a written statement shared on his social media account. 

In response, RTÜK head Şahin released a statement saying that Taşçı was excluded from the meeting since his previous statements signaled how he would have voted on the fining of the relevant TV channels.

Taşçı refuted Şahin's statements saying that he has always respected the confidentiality of RTÜK's meetings and his tweets from a day earlier have not in any way revealed "what kind of a decision would come out or how I would vote.”

On Aug. 10, Taşçı had written on Twitter: “RTÜK will discuss the administrative fines against Fox TV, Halk TV, Habertürk, KRT and Tele1 in its Supreme Board meeting tomorrow on the grounds that the broadcasters did not abide by the instruction of 'Do not air the fires.' Is it you that have disregarded RTÜK's instruction of 'censorship' and informed the public in the right way! It is not over.”