News and Commentary

WAR ON PRESS: Turkey Fines TV Channels For Criticizing President Erdogan

While the American media vilifies President Donald Trump for saying mean things about a press that routinely misrepresents his policies and positions, the Turkish government is actually waging a war on the freedom of press.

Two Turkish television channels have been fined for criticizing Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, according to a report from Reuters. In Turkey, insulting the president is a crime, and criticizing the president is considered an insult and seen as encouraging disobedience.

“A talk show on Halk TV will be suspended temporarily by the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) over comments made by prominent actors Mujdat Gezen and Metin Akpinar, an RTUK official said,” Reuters reported. “Broadcaster Haberturk reported that a Turkish prosecutor had launched an investigation and asked Akpinar and Gezen to make a statement, in which they denied charges of insulting the president and encouraging disobedience.”

Akpinar had called for democracy in the country and suggested Erdogan could be “hanged” if democracy is not reached.

“I believe that the only solution for us to get rid of this polarization and fights is democracy. If we can’t reach that point, then perhaps the leader will be hanged from his feet like it happened in all other fascisms of the past, or he will be poisoned in a dungeon or live the end of all the other [similar] leaders, but it will be ultimately our own destruction,” Akpinar said on the show, according to Turkish English-language news outlet the Hurriyet Daily News.

Gezen criticized Erdogan directly, saying “He is rebuking everyone, he is pointing his finger at everybody, he tells people ‘to know your limits.’”

“Look, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you cannot test our patriotism. You should know your limit,” he added.

Erdogan accused the two actors of threatening him “with death and a coup explicitly.” They were brought in on charges but later released and are banned from traveling overseas.

The program is to be suspended for five episodes, with RTUK claiming the remarks “exceeded the boundaries of criticism” and promoted “the people to hatred and enmity,” according to a written statement.

Turkey’s Fox TV also had three future broadcasts suspended after the RTUK viewed comments by one of the program’s anchors as “calling for protests against a hike in natural gas prices,” Reuters reported. The show’s anchor, Fatih Portakal, allegedly called “for street protest,” according to the RTUK.

“Come on, let’s protests the price hikes, the hike in price of natural gas, with a peaceful rally. Come on. Let’s do it. Can we?” Portakal said while discussing similar protests in Paris, France.

One of Erdogan’s lawyers reached out to the RTUK, a watchdog group, to punish the programs.

Halk TV and Fox TV are two of the last news channels willing to criticize Erdogan. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) states that “Turkey remains the world’s worst offender against press freedom.” At least 68 journalists were imprisoned last year for criticizing the Turkish government.