İlhan Taşçı, a member of Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), was removed from a meeting of the media watchdog over discussions on media coverage of the recent bout of wildfires, the opposition deputy announced in a series of tweets on Wednesday.
RTÜK Chairman Ebubekir Şahin accused Taşçı of having revealed his vote during Wednesday’s session, and by the votes of members from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its coalition partner the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Taşçı was removed from the meeting hall, he said.
“The reason was to inform the public of censorship on news stories on the wildfires!” Taşçı, a deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said.
On Tuesday Taşçı had tweeted to say RTÜK was set to issue fines to several television networks for not complying with an order to avoid reporting on wildfires that have raged for more than 10 days along the country’s southwestern coast.
“It can clearly be seen in my posts that I never even gave the slightest hint as to which way I was going to vote, or what way the vote would go,” Taşçı said in a press statement he released via his Twitter account on Wednesday.
Turkish law protects discussions in RTÜK sessions, Taşçı said, adding that he “always respected the rule for the confidentiality of negotiations”. The CHP deputy said he would only discuss decisions made by RTÜK, after the fact, and thus not covered by the law.
In a series of tweets, Şahin called against “distorting the matter”, and said the watchdog only ordered Taşçı out of the session while the relevant cases were being discussed.
Six television networks were issued fines over 17 case files in the RTÜK session after Taşçı was removed, BBC Turkish reported. Most of the fines were related to wildfire coverage and several speeches during discussions of the wildfires, it said.
Chief Advisor to the Chairwoman for the centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP), Aytun Çıray, said in a tweet that the party pressed charges against Şahin for hindering the right to communication and press freedom.
On August 3, RTÜK had issued a statement saying it had a right to ask broadcasters for sensibility and to warn them, BBC Turkish reported. At the time, Taşçı had accused Şahin of threatening Turkey’s media organs with “the strictest of penalties” if they covered the wildfires “in a way that will engender fear and concern among the public” and “discourage the people and fire fighters”.
Among the sub-headers Fox TV used that triggered the fines were “The situation is dire”, “Turkey is experiencing a nightmare for six days”, and “Turkey has been on fire for a week”, according to the BBC.
Televised discussions on KRT network were fined for insulting Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli and the rest of the Turkish government.
Tele1 was fined for presenter Can Ataklı calling the government’s response to the wildfires “idiotic”, and the government itself “untalented and incapable”.
Halk TV received its fines for “claims and allegations that could create outrage among the public and create fear, panic and concern, and increase tensions”, while TR35 network was told its broadcasts had made “a violation of broadcast principles”.