Turkey's media watchdog fines critical broadcasters 5 million liras in first six months

Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has continued to deepen the censorship of freedom of speech and press by imposing a fine of 5 million liras in total to TV channels that broadcast commentary and news coverage critical of the government.

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Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has slapped TV channels critical of the government with a fine of 5 million Turkish Liras (approximately $577,000) in total in the first six months of 2021, daily Birgün reported on July 5, citing an opposition member of the council.

TV channels that are known to have close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), on the other hand, have not been issued even a single administrative fine.

“RTÜK has divided 780 TV channels into two: those who like the government and [presidential] palace, and those who criticize. And to silence those who make criticism, [RTÜK president] Ebubekir Şahin is trying every way and suffocating them with fines,” said RTÜK's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) member İlhan Taşçı.

Halk TV has been the channel that received the highest number of fines among a total of 22 in the first six months of 2021. Halk TV has been issued a fine of 254,000 liras in total in nine different penalties, followed by TELE 1, which was ordered to pay a fine of 169,429 liras for six different penalties.

KRT came third in the list, receiving a fine of 112,952 liras for four different penalties, whereas Fox TV was imposed a fine of three monetary penalties.

ATV, A Haber, Ülke TV, Kanal 7, TV Net and TGRT Haber, on the other hand, have not been imposed a single fine in the first half of this year, Taşçı said, comparing RTÜK president Şahin to “a TV commissar of the government and palace.”

“Despite his written responsibilities indicated in the law, RTÜK's only aim under the presidency of Ebubekir Şahin, has become to protect the rulership and palace from the criticism of free and unique broadcasters and to silence those that can criticize the rulership. RTÜK is the biggest obstacle of the freedom of press and freedom of expression,” he said.

Meanwhile, CHP MP Utku Çakırözer has filed a parliamentary motion asking the government about the allocation of advertisements by public banks to solely pro-government media organs.

“If the advertisements of public banks are paid through the savings of 84 million people and taxes, then they should be distributed in a fair way to TV channels and newspapers,” he said in his parliamentary motion, inquiring about the public banks' criteria on allocations of advertisements.