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Turkey’s media watchdog imposes fresh fines on 3 TV stations for gov’t criticism

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed new fines on three TV stations due to programs during which government policies were criticized, a RTÜK member has announced.

RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Wednesday said in a series of tweets that Fox TV, Tele1 and Halk TV were fined on the grounds that they violated the principles of broadcast journalism and failed to act with impartiality.

“In RTÜK’s view, you are impartial when you take the side of the government, and you lose your impartiality when you aren’t on its side,” Taşçı tweeted.

Fox TV was given the fine due to the recent remarks of news presenter Gülbin Tosun, who criticized the government for its policies on women, which she said see women only as child bearers who have no place in professional life.

Halk TV was fined due to the remarks of presenter Ayşenur Arslan, who criticized the government’s poor response to two powerful earthquakes that hit the country in February, claiming the lives of more than 50,000 people, and for minimizing the death toll to mask the true scale of the disaster.

Tele1 was slapped with a fine due to remarks during a program presented by the station’s editor-in-chief Merdan Yanardağ during which Professor Emre Kongar was a guest. Yanardağ and Kongar criticized the Şanlıurfa Municipality, run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for making a donation of TL 600,000 ($31,000) to Afghanistan under Taliban rule instead of investing in the city’s infrastructure, which was damaged by flash floods last month.

The three TV stations, which are frequently hit with fines or broadcasting bans by RTÜK, will pay the 3 percent of last month’s advertising revenue as a fine, according to RTÜK’s decision.

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.

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