Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed a fine on two TV stations for airing the remarks of a mob boss about the country’s interior minister, according to a RTÜK member.
İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Wednesday that RTÜK imposed the fines on the pro-opposition Halk TV and KRT TV stations for airing the remarks of mafia boss Sedat Peker about Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
Soylu filed a complaint with RTÜK against the two TV stations.
Taşçı said the fines were imposed due to debates on programs on these TV stations regarding Peker’s allegations about Soylu, which, according to a majority of RTÜK members, were not “thoroughly investigated” and “went beyond the limits of free speech” and included “insults” of the minister.
Taşçı said he and another RTÜK member, Okan Konuralp, voted against the fines.
Peker, who lives in exile in the UAE, sent shockwaves across the country in the summer of 2021 through scandalous revelations he made on social media about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating former and current state officials and their family members.
Minister Soylu was among his main targets, and Peker claimed among many other scandalous revelations that Soylu and his inner circle were blackmailing people with bogus charges of terrorism links.
Peker, who was silent for a long while out of concerns for his safety, has recently become active on social media again, making shocking claims about some pro-government figures.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed, while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
RTÜK is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.