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Turkish court orders injunction on broadcasting ban on anti-gov’t TV station

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A Turkish court has issued an injunction on a seven-day broadcasting ban imposed on the anti-government TELE1 TV station by the country’s media watchdog due to the remarks of a journalist on air about a terrorist leader, the Birgün daily reported.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) earlier this month imposed the ban on the TV station in addition to a fine due to the remarks of the station’s editor-in-chief, Merdan Yanardağ, regarding Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In a move that attracted widespread criticism from press organizations and rights groups, Yanardağ was arrested in late June on terrorist propaganda charges based on his comments about Öcalan during a June 20 broadcast on TELE1.

RTÜK President Ebubekir Şahin said the watchdog initiated an investigation into TELE1 due to Yanardağ’s statements, which he claimed “praised the terrorist leader who is the murderer of thousands of people.”

TELE1 screen was supposed to go off air on Monday, but an administrative court in Ankara where the RTÜK decision had been appealed ordered an injunction on the broadcasting ban, preventing the ban from going into effect.

If the court ultimately upholds the broadcasting ban on TELE1, the TV station may face the cancellation of its broadcasting license if it gets a similar punishment again.

When a media organization is penalized by RTÜK in violation of Article 8/b of the RTÜK law three times in a year, RTÜK can cancel its broadcasting license.

The recent broadcasting ban imposed on TELE1 is the second one this year.

Yanardağ has been charged with “praising crime and a criminal” as well as “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The journalist said the “isolation” imposed on Öcalan has no legal basis while lamenting the fact that he is not even allowed to meet with his family members and lawyers.

The “isolation” of Öcalan, who has been jailed in a high-security prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999, refers to his inability to speak with his lawyers for years.

He also described Öcalan as “a smart person who reads a lot of books and can analyze political developments correctly.”

Shortly before his arrest Yanardağ said his words had been taken out of context and were not meant to praise Öcalan.

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.

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