Turkish TV watchdog rejects HDP slander complaints, citing free speech

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) rejected legal complaints by the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) that it had been subject to slander by journalists, a political commentator and a television channel, citing freedom of expression, news website Diken reported on Tuesday.

One of the 16 complaints focused on comments by Hürriyet journalist Nedim Şener, who said in a televised debate that the HDP was “trying to create chaos within Turkey” and “call for a domestic insurgency”.

In another televised discussion, Metin Özkan, who works as a press advisor for far-right nationalist leader Devlet Bahçeli, said HDP deputies had “threatened the veteran parliament”.

RTÜK also rejected slander accusations against political scientist Mehmet Şahin, who said that HDP leaders had “been steeped in crime to the point they can’t be defended”. It also threw out accusations against the pro-government television network A Haber, which broadcast a story entitled “PKK shelter in HDP provincial offices” and against Erkan Tan, a presenter at the network, who labelled the party a “terrorphiliac” and “an enemy of the Republic of Turkey”.

Last week, a top Turkish prosecutor moved to shut down the HDP for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Scores of HDP members have faced prosecution for ties to the PKK, including its former co-chairs, members of parliament and mayors.

In February, the Turkish watchdog issued a fine against opposition network Halk TV for a satirical story, Diken reported. It also levied fines against anchors at the network, who criticised the police for treating students involved in university protests in January “like enemies” and “people not of the same nationality”. It fined another channel, HaberTürk, after a guest said state officials were acting like militants for the government.