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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog fines 3 more stations for airing content critical of gov’t

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has imposed fines on three television stations for broadcasting content critical of the Turkish government, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member İlhan Taşçı tweeted that the watchdog had imposed fines and suspended several television programs to pressure channels into supporting the government.

The pro-opposition Halk TV was issued a fine for advertising a book written by jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş. RTÜK president Ebubekir Şahin said in a tweet that Halk TV was praising a terrorist and that some books were more destructive than bombs; therefore, the television station had been fined and the program on which the book was advertised was suspended.

“As the elections draw closer, we need to be more aware of provocations,” he said. “Halk TV is producing this kind of provocative content by praising a terrorist.”

Halk TV was also fined for giving screen time to Turhan Çömez, an opposition lawmaker who claimed that several critically ill patients in Hatay’s İskenderun Hospital had died after recent earthquakes left the hospital without any power. He criticized authorities for not making sure hospitals had generators and that all patients were evacuated to safety.

Şahin said Show TV, another private television station, was fined for content normalizing gender-based violence. A woman was beaten by a man during a drama broadcast by the station. According to Taşçı, RTÜK used this as an excuse since it usually turns a blind eye to gender-based violence on other television stations.

A few weeks ago, the government was criticized for its slow response to earthquakes that hit southern Turkey in February during a comedy program aired on Show TV. Taşçı said RTUK had been trying to punish the channel ever since and used gender-based violence as an opportunity.

Fox TV was fined for criticizing the mayor of southeastern Şanlıurfa province and city for allowing building construction in dry riverbeds, which was sure to lead to a disaster if an earthquake occurred.

Taşçı said RTÜK aimed to pressure the media into keeping silent about the government’s wrongdoings as May elections approach. “However, we won’t allow them to do this and will support the free media to the best of our ability,” he 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.

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