TV stations punished for reporting on survey

TV stations Halk TV and Cem TV have been penalized by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) and the Supreme Election Board (YSK) for ‘profanity’, and reporting on an opinion survey, respectively, according to Today’s Zaman.

The YSK, upon the suggestion of the RTÜK, issued a penalty of suspending the broadcasts of two programs on Cem TV, “Uyan Türkiye” (Wake up Turkey) and “Ana Haber Bülteni” (Main News Bulletin), for four and five days, respectively, on the grounds that the programs had broadcast an opinion survey on the approaching local elections scheduled for March 30.

The election board (YSK) said the TV programs sought to impact voters’ election preferences.

Another program, to be decided by the YSK, will be broadcast in place of the two programs until their suspension is over.

Cem Media Group President Celal Toprak harshly criticized the suspensions. “It is bizarre to see that bans in Turkey have reached this point,” he said, lashing out at the YSK for issuing a penalty without first warning Cem TV. “I find the penalty very harsh. We have never been given such a harsh penalty before. I hope such days [filled with bans and penalties] will end soon,” he stated. He also said Cem TV would not be discouraged by the penalty and would continue with its broadcasting policy with no changes.

“We will not make any concessions on our mission to help people gain access to information,” Toprak added.

Cem TV News Director Pınar Işık Ardor said she was surprised her station had been punished for broadcasting the news. “I believe the penalty is too harsh. They [the YSK] probably want to silence us,” she said, adding that other TV stations report on opinion polls without being punished. “This is injustice,” she said.

In addition, RTÜK imposed a fine of TL 11,886 on Halk TV for profanity used during one of its programs. Halk TV Managing Editor Hakan Aygün, while comparing Turkey’s past and present, used profanity against some of today’s politicians.

The penalties against Cem TV and Halk TV come at a time when there is fierce debate over the government’s increasing grip over the media.

The government’s interference in the media grew more evident after remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the editor-in-chief of a major Turkish newspaper in February. Erdoğan acknowledged on Feb. 11 that he had called an executive at a mainstream news station while on an official visit to Morocco in June 2013 to discuss the station’s coverage of comments by an opposition leader.

Also in mid-February, Habertürk Editor-in-Chief Fatih Altaylı said during a televised program that there is intense government pressure on the media. “Instructions are pouring down every day [on media groups] from somewhere,” Altaylı said, adding: “There is pressure on all of us. Today, the dignity of journalism is being crushed underfoot. Everybody is afraid [of losing his or her job].”

In late February, the YSK issued a penalty of one week’s suspension for news program “Gündem Özel” (Special Agenda), which airs on Thursday evenings on Bugün TV, on the grounds that the program was “biased.” Tarık Toros, the host of the program, said the YSK’s penalty is an act of intimidation against media outlets that are bringing the corruption issue before the public.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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