Media watchdog fines networks for airing Erdoğan’s ‘Turkey-fleeing scheme’

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has fined four TV channels over their coverage of claims by the country’s main opposition leader that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his circle were working on a scheme to leave the country pending a defeat in the next polls.

Flash TV, Halk TV, TELE 1 and KRT were issued financial penalties for broadcasting a video posted by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader last week, in which he detailed the claims about Erdoğan and other government officials, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı said in a Twitter post on Monday.

Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that some $61 million was being transferred to the United States through education foundations close to the Turkish president - TÜRGEV and Ensar - as part of an alleged scheme to allow Erdoğan and his political circle to flee the country if he loses the elections scheduled for the summer of next year. 

Erdoğan and government officials have denied the claims, with the Turkish president filing a libel lawsuit against Kılıçdaroğlu over the remarks last week.

Taşçı called the fines - “a blow to freedom of the press” and the “right to information” while accusing RTÜK of “intimidating broadcasters.”

Critics accuse RTÜK of contributing to increasing censorship in Turkey by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent media outlets which oppose Erdoğan’s government. 

A total of 85 percent of the Turkey’s media in owned by pro-government businessmen, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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