International press organizations warn Turkey ahead of elections
A joint statement issued by international media organizations said that such suppression of criticism undermines the electoral process. ‘Instead of supporting freedom of expression and media pluralism in the country, RTÜK is being weaponized by the ruling parties to silence legitimate criticism and gain an unfair advantage in the May 2023 elections,’ the statement said.
The statement referred to RTÜK’s fines earlier this month against FOX TV, Halk TV, and Tele1 for violating the principles of broadcast journalism and not acting impartially.
FOX TV was fined 3 percent of its monthly advertising revenue after news anchor Gülbin Tosun criticized the government’s approach to women’s rights, saying “The government does not want you to work or study, but to have children and stay at home”. Tosun was targeted by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) following her remarks.
RTÜK imposed the same penalty on Halk TV after a presenter and his guest featured a news report claiming that the Turkish Disaster Management Presidency (AFAD) had commissioned survivors of the February earthquakes to rent equipment to save their homes.
TELE1 was fined 3 percent of its monthly advertising revenue for “insulting the municipality” after the hosts of the program “18 Minutes” criticized the AKP-run Şanlıurfa Municipality and cited allegations that the municipality was transferring funds provided by foreign governments to Turkey.
RTÜK also temporarily banned several programs for their critical content. In 2022, RTÜK imposed 54 fines totaling 17,335,000 Turkish Liras (approximately US$825,000) on five independent broadcasters.
Government censorship is not limited to local news channels. In March, the Ministry of Industry and Technology refused to renew the operating license of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) after its Turkish service was blocked in June 2022 at the request of RTÜK. DW can no longer operate as a legal entity in Turkey, forcing its reporters and editors to continue working as freelancers without fixed employment contracts and social security benefits.
“We see these events as part of the Turkish government’s systematic attempt to suppress critical reporting and control the flow of information ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, 2023. We call on the Turkish broadcast regulator RTÜK to immediately end the persecution of independent broadcasters and act according to its mandate to guarantee freedom of expression and media pluralism in the country.”
RTÜK has been accused of contributing to increased 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 ranks 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, are owned by pro-government businessmen and do not toe the official line.
The media organizations that signed the joint statement are as follows;
Association of European Journalists
Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO)
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)