People walk past buildings destroyed in February 6 earthquakes, in Antakya, southern Turkey, on February 20, 2023. Turkey's media watchdog recently fined broadcasters for criticizing the government's earthquake response. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

Turkish media watchdog fines broadcasters for criticizing earthquake response

Istanbul, February 22, 2023 – In response to news reports that Turkey’s media regulator penalized three broadcasters for their critical coverage of the government’s response to recent devastating earthquakes that hit the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Critical journalism during a time of mourning for the tens of thousands of lives lost to the earthquakes may appear harsh, but it can also pave the way to justice for the victims and better regulations to save lives in the future,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Turkish authorities should revoke the penalties leveled against broadcasters FOX TV Turkey, Halk TV, and TELE1, and refrain from silencing media criticism of the government and its institutions.”

On Tuesday, February 22, the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the government telecommunications regulator known as RTÜK fined Halk TV and TELE1 5% of their January revenue and fined FOX TV Turkey 3%, the reports said. The RTÜK also suspended the next five episodes of the Halk TV and TELE1 shows that aired criticism of the government’s earthquake preparation and rescue efforts.

The outlets have the right to appeal to RTÜK decisions under Turkey’s telecommunications law.

Separately, the RTÜK on October 19, 2022, had imposed a three-day broadcast ban on TELE1 that will begin Wednesday, February 23, in response to a parliamentary deputy’s comments on a political debate show in September 2022. Socialist politician Sera Kadıgil described the Presidency of Religious Affairs, Turkey’s official religious authority, as “a tool for political Islam” while she was a guest on the show. TELE1 will comply with the court order for an immediate ban while its appeal is pending. 

CPJ emailed RTÜK for comment but did not receive any response.

Editor’s Note: The first link has been corrected, and the third paragraph has been changed to reflect that the fines imposed on the broadcasters was calculated against their revenue for January.