Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has initiated an investigation into a TV station for hosting former national football player Hakan Şükür, who is sought by Turkey due to his links to a faith-based group, the watchdog’s chairman has announced.
Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) Chairman Ebubekir Şahin announced on Twitter on Wednesday that the council has launched an investigation into the TV 5 station for hosting Şükür in a live broadcast on Tuesday.
Şükür, also a former deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been living in self-exile in the US because of his affiliation with the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Şahin said RTÜK would not allow an open supporter of a “terrorist organization” to appear on TV and disseminate the propaganda of his organization.
The program’s host, Mehmet Ali Kayacı, who attracted criticism from pro-government circles for praising Şükür and his successes as a footballer, has been fired, according to media reports.
During the program, Şükür denied the accusations about him and claimed that the government was promising to give all his property back if he parts ways with the Gülen movement and expresses regret for his affiliation. Şükür said he is not a criminal and would not do what the government wants.
As part of a large-scale crackdown on the movement’s members, an arrest warrant was issued for Şükür, who moved to the US in 2015, and the government confiscated all his homes, businesses and bank accounts in Turkey.
The former striker netted 51 goals in his 112 appearances playing for Turkey, making him the nation’s all-time top goal scorer.
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.
The AKP government shuttered 60 TV and radio stations by decree during a state of emergency imposed after an abortive putsch in July 2016.