Turkish media watchdog shuts down opposition network TELE1 for five days

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has ordered a five-day broadcast ban for opposition television station TELE1, starting at midnight on Wednesday.

TELE 1 will remain offline until midnight on Sept. 7.

A recording of the ban being implemented showed TELE 1 newscaster Evren Özalkuş and four guests waving goodbye as the screen fades into the mandatory notice. “We are going dark, but we won’t be silenced,” Özalkuş said.

The mandatory notice broadcast instead of regular programming cited the reason for the RTÜK ban as “inciting hatred” during a news broadcast on April 30 and a discussion programme on May 24.

On the discussion programme Out of the Darkness into Light, guest Cemil Kılıç had said, “It is now understood that today, there is an attempt to establish a theocratic regime in Turkey. A caliphate/sultan regime.”

In his comments dubbed discriminatory by RTÜK, Kılıç had said he did not consider Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) as “part of the Muslim realm,” and added: “Similarly, I do not consider the President’s faith as part of Islam either.”

As per Turkish law on broadcasting, TELE 1 will lose its licence if it is issued one more penalty.

Deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Veli Ağbaba protested the ban in a tweet. “RTÜK, (acting as) the government’s beating stick, is preventing the people from hearing the truth,” Ağbaba said.

“Those who think they can prevent the truth from spreading via darkened screens will be proven wrong once again,” CHP’s Istanbul chapter chairwoman Canan Kaftancıoğlu said.

“The economy won’t recover when free press is silenced, the people’s woes won’t disappear when channels are closed,” leader of the centre-right opposition Good party Meral Akşener said in a tweet.

Pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said in a tweet, “The government is afraid of the power of the truth, in an attempt to prolong its life by suppressing opposition voices.”