Turkey's media watchdog fines critical broadcasters for 'insulting religious values'

Turkey's media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined broadcasters Halk TV and TELE1 for allegedly insulting society's religious values, a common retaliation by Ankara against media organizations who are critical of the government.

A screenshot from broadcaster HalkTV reads "Censorship on the press."

Duvar English

Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined broadcasters Halk TV and TELE1, both critical of the government, for allegedly "mocking religious beliefs and sentimental values" on March 31.

Halk TV program Medya Mahallesi including famous economist Emin Çapa had included statements about Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş's hospitalization at the American Hospital in Istanbul, a pricier alternative in healthcare. 

"The lord said American Hospital... The lord doesn't say things like 'city hospital' or 'public hospital,'" the broadcasters had said about the public officials' private healthcare. 

The RTÜK said that the aforementioned statement was "underestimating God," and was thus in violation of the rule that broadcasts should not mock beliefs held by large portions of the public, fining Halk TV.

The watchdog also fined Halk TV program "Özlem Gürses ile Kayda Geçsin" for violating the defamation code by making claims of criminal conduct about former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The RTÜK accused the broadcast of implying that Gökçek had connections to the network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamic preacher widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt. 

Meanwhile, TELE1 broadcast “18 Dakika” was fined for going against societal values because the term "Islamic terrorism" was used in the program. 

Turkey's RTÜK is infamous for fining broadcasters who are critical of the government and has marked record-breaking fines and restrictions under the ruling AKP.