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.