TV stations fined for not parroting the government line in earthquake news

The media institutions such as FOX, KRT, Halk TV, Tele 1, TV5 and Habertürk received monetary fines due to giving “false information about the government

TV stations fined for not parroting the government line in earthquake news

There is a price to pay for TV stations in Turkey for being independent, or even reporting that doesn’t match the government view.

Last month, on January 24th, an earthquake hit Elazığ, an eastern town.  The government was caught unprepared.  It had been collecting an earthquake tax from the citizens to reach to the aid of those who could get struck by this natural disaster.

However, as soon as the earthquake hit, the government branch, the Red Crescent, similar to the Red Cross organization elsewhere, asked people to send help in amounts even as small as $1.5 to be able to send help.  They had no money to properly help the folks who survived the earthquake and were shivering in sub-freezing degrees in the cold.

This scandal opened the Pandora’s box where scandal after scandal started to emerge showing tens of millions of dollars had been exchanged in corruption laden transactions. These monies mostly ended up in the US where it is being used to build a 21-story building in the heart of Manhattan or to buy the ex-boxing champion Muhammed Ali’s estate for 2.5 million dollars. These expenses, it was made clear by the government, are not auditable.

Each day comes the news of yet another corruption scandal revolving around the Red Crescent. From businesses using the Red Crescent’s tax-deductible status for contributions to funds personally controlled by the president Erdoğan’s family members to renting dilapidated buildings from the government friendly businesses for $12,000 a month are only few of the examples of where the tax dollars for earthquake was spent.

This issue, as other corruption charges, could have been ignored by the AKP government, the Islamic, right-wing, neo-liberal administration that is in peril significantly due to corruptions like these. It was the independent media, or whatever remnants of it has been left, that kept up the pressure and exposed the situation at the earthquake zone and documented how the so-called modern and earthquake safe new buildings built by the government friendly private contractors as exuberant costs crumbled as if made from sand. This was a risky move on the part of the independent media.

This was too much for the government. First came the threats to prevent any independent news coverage. Journalists were warned of consequences if they spread “fake news.” The definition of “fake news” means any news that is not word by word the same as the government approved news spread by pro-government media. The highest government officials called those who asked the whereabouts of the earthquake funds traitors.

This week, RTÜK, “The High Institution for Radio and Television”, rained fines to the media that did not take the government threats seriously.

The media institutions such as FOX, KRT, Halk TV, Tele 1, TV5 and Habertürk received monetary fines due to giving “false information about the government.”

Other reasons listed for the TV channel fines include media’s accusing Turkey of being a “colonialist” in the Syrian excursions. KRT channel was cited due to “reporting irresponsibly” and causing its audiences to feel fear, panic, nervousness and pessimism.

The same accusation of causing fear, panic and pessimism was levelled against Halk TV that was also fined.

Other TV channels were fined for reporting that the current government had disbanded the Council of Earthquake in 2007. Which is a verifiable fact.

Although the media outlets were fined, it is interesting that the exact amounts of the fines were not announced.

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