A regional court in Ankara has issued an injunction on a fine and broadcasting ban imposed on a pro-opposition TV station by the country’s media watchdog for promoting a book written by a jailed Kurdish politician, the T24 news website reported.
Halk TV was issued the fine last month for promoting a book written by jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş. Radio and Television Supreme Council (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 received a five-broadcast suspension.
“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.”
Demirtaş, who has been jailed since November 2016 on bogus terrorism charges and not released from prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, has written several books while in prison. His latest book, titled, “DAD,” means justice in Kurdish.
Halk TV Ankara representative Serkan Asker announced on Friday during a program on the station that a regional court in Ankara had ruled for an injunction on the punitive measures taken by RTÜK against Halk TV last month.
“That decision [of RTÜK] will be discussed in court…. There are judges in Ankara, they have just said, ‘stop’ for the time being,” said Sancar, adding that Halk TV’s programs during which government policies are criticized attract the government’s anger.
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.
On Thursday, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom along with 19 other press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organizations called on RTÜK to immediately stop fining broadcasters for their critical reporting ahead of elections on May 14.
Instead of upholding freedom of expression and media pluralism in the country, RTÜK is being weaponized by the governing parties to silence legitimate criticism and provide them with an unfair advantage in the May 2023 elections. This suppression of public debate is undermining the electoral process, the organizations said in their joint statement.
In 2022 RTÜK issued 54 fines on five independent broadcasters totaling 17,335,000 Turkish lira (approximately $825.000). By contrast, pro-government channels received a total of four fines totaling TL 1,674,000 (approximately $80.000).