Turkey prosecutes Fox TV for critical news on hospital

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation on Fox TV reporter Fatih Portakal and manager İbrahim Onur Kumbaracıbaşı after the Ministry of Health complained about news reports on Portakal’s show criticising a state hospital in the southern Turkish city of Mersin.

The ministry’s complaint accused the pair of insulting Turkish state organs.

The filmed news piece featured interviews with patients complaining about the distance to the hospital, which opened in Feb. 2017, and about its size, which they said made it difficult to get around.

The news report enraged Minister of Development Lütfi Elvan, who called the Mersin hospital “the best in Europe” and suggested Portakal’s news had been reported at the orders of unnamed circles to the detriment of the Turkish government.

Portakal responded on Jun. 1 by launching legal action against the minister, who he said had made the allegations without any evidence.

The Ministry of Health’s complaint and the subsequent investigation into Fox TV thus came as no surprise, and was launched in retribution to his own legal action against Elvan, Portakal said.

Turkey is known as a particularly problematic country for press freedom, with large numbers of journalists in prison and the majority of media outlets owned by businesses that impose a pro-government editorial line. The launch of legal action against a popular news anchor for a relatively nondescript news story is a rare occurrence, however.