Turkey's media watchdog fines opposition TV channels over Gezi trial coverage

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has fined four TV channels over their coverage of the Gezi trial, which featured interviews with opposition lawmakers, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı said on Tuesday.

Flash TV, Halk TV, TELE 1 and KRT were issued financial penalties for “belittling and degrading the government,” after broadcasting interviews with opposition lawmakers Özgür Özel and Ahmet Şık following the sentencing of defendants in the Gezi trial last month, Diken news site cited Taşçı as saying.

“RTÜK’s fines today show that when statements by lawmakers are not to the liking of certain parties, there is an effort to penalize TV stations in order to prevent the MPs from being featured,” Taşçı said.

A Turkish court on April 25 sentenced rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala - who has been behind bars for over four years in pre-trial detention - to life in prison without the possibility of parole on charges of attempting to overthrow the government in connection to the Gezi protests of 2013. Seven other defendants in the case were sentenced to 18 years in jail each on charges of aiding the attempt to topple the government and immediately arrested. 

“The goal is for nobody to hear or know the truth,” the RTUK member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said. “The pressure over the media is now extending as far as statements from politicians.”

The sentences have been met with international condemnation in the case that has come to symbolize a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan over the last decade.

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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