A screen shot of the staff of TELE1, a Turkish online outlet and TV broadcaster, which was suspended for seven days starting August 6, 2023. (YouTube/TELE1)

Turkey suspends critical outlet TELE1 for a week

Istanbul, August 8, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned a court’s implementation of a seven-day suspension of critical online outlet and TV broadcaster TELE1 following an order by the official media watchdog the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).

“The court-imposed suspension of TELE1 due to an RTÜK order, along with the imprisonment of the outlet’s chief editor Merdan Yanardağ in June, are unlawful and shameful acts aimed at intimidating the opposition media in Turkey into silence,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative, on Tuesday. “TELE1 should immediately be allowed to continue broadcasting, and Turkish authorities should make peace with the fact that a free and critical news media is essential for democracy.”

The blackout started on Sunday, August 6, and will last until Saturday, August 12, according to reports by TELE1 and other outlets.

Yanardağ was arrested, pending trial, in June due to his criticism of authorities over the prison conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

At that time, RTÜK also ordered a seven-day suspension of TELE1, which was delayed pending a lawsuit filed by the media organization. The RTÜK decisions can be appealed in court, according to the related Turkish laws. However, TELE1 reported on August 1 that it had been informed that an Ankara court had lifted the stay of execution and allowed the suspension to go into effect.

RTÜK’s board is based on political party seats in parliament, which is currently controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party and its allies. In the past, RTÜK has favored pro-government outlets and has focused penalties on critical outlets. In April, CPJ joined other press freedom, freedom of expression, and human rights organizations in calling for the regulator to stop punishing broadcasters for critical reporting.

TELE1 published a press statement on Saturday assuring its audience that the outlet will live on and “continue on its path as a distinguished example of honorable journalism in the history of the press.” The outlet also published an online video that day in which the TELE1 staff vowed to continue doing their jobs after the suspension ends despite the pressure they face.

CPJ emailed RTÜK but did not receive a response.