Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed fines totaling more than TL 22 million ($760,982) on seven opposition television stations during the first 11 months of 2023, according to an opposition lawmaker.
Speaking during a general assembly session in parliament, Utku Çakırözer, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the council imposed administrative fines totaling in excess of TL 22 million on Halk TV, FOX, TELE 1, Habertürk, Flash Haber, KRT and TV5 during the January–November period.
According to the MP, the reasons for the fines include criticism of the government for both low pensions and the discrepancy between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s assurance that there will be no toll increases on bridges and highways and the subsequent implementation of such adjustments.
Çakırözer stated that the sole aim of RTÜK President Ebubekir Şahin, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and other members of the party is to silence television channels and journalists telling the truth with unjust penalties.
“We would like to emphasize once again … that the duty of RTÜK is not to serve as the tool of the palace [Erdoğan] or the ruling party. RTÜK’s duty is not to suppress television channels or darken the media but to sustain and preserve them, protecting their freedom,” the lawmaker said.
Göreviniz karartmak değil, yaşatmak! pic.twitter.com/0fkxXYRQkl
— Utku Çakırözer (@utkucakirozer) November 24, 2023
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.
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 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.