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RTÜK will convene to decide on fines for 4 TV stations over their earthquake coverage

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), will convene on Wednesday to decide whether to fine the Tele 1, Halk TV, FOX TV and Habertürk networks for their coverage in the aftermath of two powerful earthquakes earlier this month.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey’s south on Feb. 6, which was followed by dozens of aftershocks including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region, killing more than 45,000 people in the area and parts of Syria, according to the latest official figures.

Following the earthquakes, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were accused of poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts, mainly failing to mobilize enough people and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble themselves and finding them frozen to death although they sustained no critical injuries in the collapse.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Tuesday tweeted that the council would convene on Wednesday to decide on whether to fine four TV stations due to their coverage focusing on the poor disaster response by the government.

 

Taşçı said on Twitter that RTÜK would meet on Wednesday to impose fines on TV stations that reported on the “incompetence and negligence” of the authorities in responding to the disaster, which, according to him, “have reached criminal levels.”

“RTÜK will convene tomorrow with the agenda of ‘fining TELE 1, Halk TV, Fox, Habertürk’ for their earthquake broadcasts. However, the deaths of tens of thousands of our citizens were caused not only by the earthquake but also by incompetence and arrogance. And they think they can hide the truth they are responsible for with possible fines,” another RTÜK member, Okan Konuralp, tweeted.

“No penalty can make us forget the despair of those who died waiting for rescue or for their relatives. No penalty can hide the truth of our citizens losing their lives, of the cities destroyed, of the children left without parents, of the millions who have become homeless,” Konuralp added.

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.

The government has also played an active role in the takeover of big media outlets since 2007 by companies that it considers friendly. Under new ownership, the media outlets have tailored their coverage to avoid criticism of the government, and in some cases, acted as direct mouthpieces for the presidency.

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