Broadcasting bans on critical Turkish outlets rise amid free press concerns
July 3, 2020

Broadcasting bans on critical Turkish outlets rise amid free press concerns

Turkey’s media watchdog has put a five-day ban on broadcasts from two opposition news channels.

The Radio and Television High Council (RTUK), most of whose members are assigned by the government, decided on July 1 to punish Tele1 TV and Halk TV for referring to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II as a despicable dictator as well as for critical remarks about Turkey’s Directorate for Religious Affairs and the government.

Both channels may lose their broadcasting licenses if they are fined again by the RTUK.

The International Press Institute condemned the decision, saying that the RTUK must stop acting as a government tool to threaten news outlets and start acting like an impartial media monitor that upheld the rights to press freedom and free expression.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday threatened social media sites, warning about possible restrictions to control platforms or shutting them down completely.

Eleven people were recently detained over Twitter insults directed at Erdogan’s daughter and son-in-law.

These platforms do not suit this nation, the president said. The Turkish nation deserves better. Turkey is not a banana republic. Do you understand why we’re against social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Netflix? To get rid of these immoralities. They are immoral.

Utku Cakirozer, a former journalist and a parliamentarian from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), decried the massive attack on press freedom.

The move meant to take back the right of people to be informed, he told Arab News, referring to the broadcast ban. They want to silence the newspapers and TV channels to discourage them: 95 percent of the media landscape is already dominated by pro-government outlets and now they target the remaining five percent. Society becomes free when journalists are set free.

Last year, 408,494 Twitter sites were banned from being accessed in Turkey, while 130,000 URLs, 7,000 Twitter Accounts, and 40,000 tweets were blocked.

Max Hoffman, a Turkey analyst from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, said there was very little trust in the media overall.

In our latest poll, 70 percent of respondents said the media was mostly untrustworthy, and just 30 percent said mostly honest, he told Arab News. Even 50 percent of AKP (the ruling party) voters said the media was mostly untrustworthy.

According to Hoffman, there was no news source that everyone trusted and opinion was starkly polarized in Turkey.

That context helps explain some of what is going on now. The government finds it more difficult to tightly control these new outlets, despite very serious efforts to influence social media users and stifle criticism on platforms. So, the AKP knows they have a problem controlling social media and are trying hard to the crackdown.

In the last 17 years Turkey’s dissident news channels Halk TV, Tele1, Fox TV, and KRT received 28 administrative fines and eight broadcasting suspensions.

Fox TV incurred administrative fines totaling TRY4,421,775 ($643,433) between Jan. 1, 2019, and March 25, 2020.

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