Turkish media watchdog bans TV channel from broadcasting for 7 days over journalist Yanardağ’s remarks

Turkey’s media watchdog RTÜK has banned opposition TV channel TELE1 from broadcasting for seven days over jailed journalist Merdan Yanardağ’s remarks criticizing the contact ban imposed upon jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

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Turkey's Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a broadcasting ban for seven days for opposition TV channel TELE1 over journalist Merdan Yanardağ’s remarks on the grounds of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity.”

RTÜK opposition member İlhan Taşçı on July 6 announced the move and said “RTÜK decided to ban TELE1 from broadcasting for 7 days and imposed a 5% fine due to the broadcast of Merdan Yanardağ on the grounds of ‘inciting the public to hatred and enmity.’ A fine of 5% was ordered! The related program was suspended five times and a fine of 5% was imposed on the grounds of ‘praising terrorism’ as well.”

Another RTÜK opposition member Tuncay Keser said the court arrested Yanardağ on the grounds of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” but RTÜK imposed a fine on the grounds of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” and “praising terrorism.”

“This decision is unfair and disproportionate. It is a serious blow to the public's right to be informed. I hope the judiciary will take a stand for freedom of press and expression on this issue and stop this punishment. This is a threat to all media,” Keser said. 

During a live broadcast on Tele1, Yanardağ on June 20 said the contact ban and isolation imposed upon Öcalan should be lifted and added that “Abdullah Öcalan is over 70 years old, it has been a long time since he has been in jail, 25 years without interruption. He is the longest serving political prisoner in Turkey. If normal execution laws apply, he should actually be released, in a house arrest etc. The isolation imposed upon Abdullah Öcalan has no place in law. It has to be lifted.”

A Turkish court on June 27 arrested journalist Merdan Yanardağ over his remarks after he was targeted by pro-government and nationalist opposition figures. 

In his testimony, Yanardağ said “I don't think it's a crime to talk about isolation. Even if it is assumed that it is a crime, I stated that even if a solution process is to be initiated, everyone should know the extent of it. I said, ‘Abdullah Öcalan is used by politicians as a method of politics. If that's the case, lift the isolation, let's find out what he said. Let him talk to his lawyers and his family, and we'll find out,’ (during live broadcast).”

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been kept in isolation for 24 years in F Type High-Security Prison on İmralı Island in Bursa. The jailed PKK leader last had a brief phone call with his brother on March 25, 2021. Since the interrupted phone call, no information has been received from Öcalan as well as other prisoners on the island (Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş, and Ömer Hayri Konar). Their lawyers have also been prevented from meeting the prisoners.