Turkish news channel a Haber yesterday received 17 new orders to cease broadcasting, bringing the total number of orders to 45 following the March 30 local elections, on the grounds that the channel allocated more time to the AK Party's local election campaign rallies. The orders are deemed by many to be an incident of bureaucratic censorship by anti-government agents within Turkey's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), which submitted a request to the Supreme Election Board (YSK).
The justification for the censorship was stated as "broadcasting programs pertaining to a single political party's candidates and its activities" for programs including "The Frame," "Untold Stories," and "60 Minutes." The channel does not have the opportunity to appeal the decision as YSK's rulings are binding and cannot be challenged, similar to constitutional decisions.
The channel condemned the decision and stated that Turkuvaz Media Group has always stood against military, bureaucratic and all sorts of tutelage, and will continue to do so and side with democracy and the rule of law, despite pressure and threats by agents of the Gülen Movement.
Sources also claim the channel could not allocate the same amount of time to opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu due to the fact that he has relentlessly used illegally recorded and fabricated wiretappings that have been banned by RTÜK. Although a Haber also condemned media outlets that claim to fight for press freedom, criticism of censorship is disregarded when it is imposed on a Haber. The company deems this a double standard. The censorship was widely criticized on social media and many people expressed that they will continue to watch the channel, despite the censorship orders.
Turgay Olcayto, the president of Turkey's Association of Journalists, criticized the ban and stated that it took away the people's right to obtain information. "The YSK's sentences are rather heavy," said Olcayto, who claimed RTÜK's sentencing was also harsh and beyond measure. Olcayto expressed his desire to see Turkey without such bans and where news is not censored.
Touching upon the fact that such strict measures are rare in well-developed states, Olcayto stated it would be more reasonable if monetary fines were imposed in cases where ethical and moral issues have not been exploited, as in this case. "It is unreasonable to limit people's views in interviews," Olcayto said, expressing that it is crucial to address this issue prior to the presidential and general elections which will be held in Turkey in the near future. He also noted that such bans would negatively affect the democratic outcome of these elections.
İbrahim Sadri, the host of the a Haber program "Ajans Yenigün," commented on the ban, stating that his colleagues were all stunned by the decision as the channel only presented what was on national newspaper headlines, just like any other channel; however they are being unjustly punished for no legitimate reason. "Being objective and unbiased is completely different than being clueless and without a stance," said Sadri, who noted that the channel has a clear stance emphasizing the development of Turkey and should be free to evaluate the past and future of the country.
Can Okar, an anchorman on a Haber stated that such bans remind him of the period when Turkey had one channel only, the state-run TRT, and restrictions and prohibitions were at their strictest. Expressing the principle that laws emerge from necessity, Okar said the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) needs to rearrange the laws in a speedy manner. "The TBMM should urgently review and modify the relevant measures," he said, explaining that such laws contravene the contemporary era and are meaningless.
The decision came at a controversial period as the ban on Twitter was lifted even though the site failed to abide by Turkish court rulings, victimizing a significant number of individuals through violation of personal rights and privacy. The ban started yesterday and will continue through Monday, April 21. The channel is forced to broadcast documentaries during the ban and failure to abide by the order may result in a complete ban on a Haber or the issuing fines to the channel.
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