Turkey’s media watchdog fines seven stations for broadcasting CHP group meeting

Turkey’s media watchdog fines seven stations for broadcasting CHP group meeting

Turkey’s media watchdog fines seven stations for broadcasting CHP group meeting Turkey’s TV and radio watchdog has fined seven private stations for broadcasting a parliamentary group meeting of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) during which supporters allegedly chanted slogans against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying the channels “insulted” the president. 

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued an administrative fine against seven TV channels including CNN Türk, NTV, Habertürk, Halk TV, Ulusal, Bengütürk and Can Erzincan for broadcasting live the May 24 parliamentary group meeting of the CHP. 

The decision, taken via a majority vote, said slogans chanted by the CHP supporters allegedly insulting Erdoğan were also broadcast live by the TV stations, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Insulting the head of state is a crime under controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which states: “A person who defames the president of the Republic [of Turkey] shall be imprisoned for a term of one to four years and the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one-sixth if the offence is committed publicly and by one-third if it is committed by way of the press and media.”

At the time of the incident, an ex officio investigation was launched into the slogans by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office following reports by the media. A number of Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies, acting on behalf of the party administration, also filed a complaint against the CHP for uttering “heavy insults” to Erdoğan and “millions of AKP supporters.” 

The CHP, however, stressed the protests were in response to an egg-throwing protest targeting party chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during the May 20 funeral of a soldier killed during an anti-terror operation. 

Kılıçdaroğlu nonetheless did not allow the slogans, the CHP noted, adding the chair made a hand gesture to prevent the chanting.

Earlier the CHP head had been the target of another protest, as a man threw a bullet shell at Kılıçdaroğlu during the funeral of two police officers killed in a June 7 attack in Istanbul’s Vezneciler neighborhood.

The protest came after the CHP leader said deputies from his party had visited convicts, including militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), as part of a Parliamentary Monitoring Committee on Human Rights – a visit that included deputies from all political parties represented in parliament, including the ruling AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).  

Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks sparked protests as fuel was thrown on the fire by a number of politicians, including Erdoğan, who said he would “leave it to the nation” to give “his lesson” to Kılıçdaroğlu. He reevaluated his position following the bullet-throwing incident, saying the CHP chair had been “misunderstood.”

A quarrel erupted between AKP and CHP deputies during a parliamentary committee meeting on June 16 when the latter accused the government of taking aim at the opposition by circulating false news about their visits to convicted militants. 

According to the CHP deputies, leaflets dropped in numerous box offices across the capital overnight provided a list of main opposition deputies who had visited the militants. The list did not include the names of deputies from other political parties who had also taken part in the visits.

Amid strong criticism at the Justice Ministry for leaking sensitive information, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, who admitted June 16 that the leak was from the ministry, said a probe was set to be launched on the leaflets. 

Meanwhile, the main opposition’s public relations office reacted to the “propaganda efforts” against the CHP by preparing a 13-page report which includes a compilation of statements from AKP members who allegedly “praised terrorism.”

While the debate into Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks continued, the party chair attended an iftar dinner organized for the families of fallen soldiers – some 4,500 people – in the Aegean province of İzmir.

“They can throw a bullet at us, fire a shot at us, come at us, but they will not succeed in intimidating us,” Kılıçdaroğlu said during his speech, underlining they would continue to fight for a country that was “free of terror.”