Government broadcast monitoring agency threatens TV stations for “commentary type news”

Ebubekir Şahin, the chair of the agency warned and said they would stop the TV stations from commentary during news broadcasts. He said, “If they keep on broadcasting commentary during news, there is a law against this and we will act on it. Please, just give the news without commentary.” What is a commentary is open for discussion because even the way a news is broadcast could be taken as “commentary” for the government if it is not exactly the same way that the “official truth” is announced to be.

Government broadcast monitoring agency threatens TV stations for “commentary type news”

The agency to monitor and make the broadcast media toe the official line, RTÜK, was established by the Turkish government and has been successfully doing just that. It advertises that it “is independent, unbiased, and has been established lawfully.”

The agency translates its name to English as The Radio and Television Supreme Council of the Republic of Turkey, RTÜK, and is tasked to monitor the broadcast media for “truthful” reporting and to catch those who may broadcast unacceptable content on air.

However, what is an “unacceptable content” is a broad definition that is open to interpretation and could include, by choice, any word or an image or an idea or commentary taken improper by the appointed officers of this agency.

The agency has in the past used its authority to silence mostly the alternative and opposition channels. In the year 2019, the monetary penalties it exacted totaled 3.8 million TL, with the Fox affiliate TV channel getting the largest penalty of 1 million 312 thousand TL. In Turkey Fox channel is one of the leading “opposition” TV channels if one can call it that, showing how far right the government and its lackey media have taken the country.

The RTÜK agency with its known heavy hand against the opposition stations however was very silent last week when during an interview in a pro-government TV channel a pro-government personality known for her make-up skills servicing television actors openly threatened anybody who was against the president. She said they, meaning pro government sympathizers and the militia, had lists of people ready to be taken out. She gloated that her family alone was prepared to take out at least 50 people and those oppositional people should tread very carefully. She even said several of those to be taken out lived in her neighborhood.

The country was in shock to hear that the pro-government civilians were keeping lists of opposing civilians and that they could come up on TV and announce, with approval comments of the TV host, they were arming themselves to “take out” the opposition.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council of the Republic of Turkey, RTÜK, who had billed the Tele1 TV station for airing and making news of an opposition electoral party’s, HDP, congress was nowhere to be found.

In 2019, even when the TV stations had taken RTÜK to court against its decisions and had won every single time, like the TGRT TV stations had done, the agency still combined their individual cases into one and went ahead to bill the station 21,114 TL for the same offences. Similarly, KRT TV was fined 17,065 TL for “criticism of president Erdoğan.” The agency also has the right to stop broadcasting of a TV station and it did exercise this right 6 times against the Ulusal Kanal, the National Channel, on top of the fines.

The questions started to appear for an agency that even blurs cigarettes or any kind of glass and drinks in old films just in case that could be an alcoholic drink on how they would penalize the pro-government TV for allowing on-air life-threats to anybody who opposed the president. The agency went total dark and did not respond. All eyes were on the regular meeting RTÜK was to hold last week on the content of the last month’s broadcasts where this issue would be discussed.

With a slick trick of a key member not attending, the meeting did not happen and thus no discussion of the threat.

However, this trick also raised concerns as social media exploded with questions on why RTÜK allowed a pro-government TV to air public threats while any opposition station would have been closed and the responsible be already in jail if they had broadcast such threats.

The RTÜK was cornered and this time had to respond but the response was even worse than the threats aired on TV. The chair explained that RTÜK was not going to be tricked into penalizing a pro-government station and thus allowing those who could be thinking of or planning a coup against the government to benefit from such a decision!

There you had it.

When the agency was ridiculed for its response, feeling the heat, RTÜK had to raise its voice and announce a threat of its own. The TV stations were going too far criticizing the agency and if this continued the agency would be forced to take other measures. Citing how independent the agency was, the chair explained that any order that came down from the president itself would be taken to heart and executed right away.

Ebubekir Şahin, the chair of the agency warned and said they would stop the TV stations from commentary during news broadcasts. He said, “If they keep on broadcasting commentary during news, there is a law against this and we will act on it. Please, just give the news without commentary.” What is a commentary is open for discussion because even the way a news is broadcast could be taken as “commentary” for the government if it is not exactly the same way that the “official truth” is announced to be.

When asked about the independence of the agency, he replied, “We have been independent and have not taken any direction or orders from the president. However, if the president gives us instructions, his instructions are for the entire state and agencies and we will observe these instructions. We accept his instructions as our orders and we will immediately obey them.”

Sendika.org news. (M.B.)