New members of media watchdog expected to ease pressure on media

The new Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTanduK) is expected to ease its pressure on media critical of the government towards the end of June, after its members are reappointed according to the shares of the new groups in Parliament, as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has lost its majority, according to the unofficial results of Sundayand’s election.
The stateand’s media watchdog comprises nine members, represented according to their partiesand’ shares of the total number of deputies in Parliament. Before the critical election on Sunday, RTanduK had five members from the AK Party and four from opposition parties, and was criticized as a tool of the government, used to impose pressure on critical media outlets.
The numbers of the newly appointed members of RTanduK will be four from the AK Party and five from other parties in Parliament.
After 13 years of domination as a single-party government, the AK Party, which has received mounting criticism for pursuing highly divisive, authoritarian and repressive policies against individuals and media outlets that do not share its views, saw a significant erosion of support in Sundayand’s election and failed to secure the 276 seats in Parliament needed to continue its single-party rule for another term.
According to the unofficial results, the votes secured translate into 257 seats for the AK Party, 131 seats for the Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP), 83 seats for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and 79 for the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Speaking with Todayand’s Zaman, member of RTanduK from the main opposition CHP Ali andOztandunandc explained that, with the loss of a vote from a member of the AK Party, RTanduK will deliver more just decisions, allowing more room for media freedom. Criticizing earlier decisions RTanduK made under its AK Party majority, andOztunandc said the members of the ruling party had preferred to side with government policies, despite warnings that they must base their decisions on existing rules and regulations. and”I told them that if you violate the laws and regulations, you will need them one day,and” he added.
According to andOztunandc, RTanduKand’s pro-government rulings affected the opinions of voters ahead of the election on Sunday, and he emphasized that the AK Partyand’s pressure on the media, applied via state institutions, lost the party votes.
andOztunandc, who expects to continue in his position as a member of RTanduK during the post-election period, predicted that many court cases will be brought against the council by media outlets that were unjustly fined.
Before local elections last year, RTanduK referred some stations critical of the government to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) for allegedly having violated pre-election rules, after the stations broadcast discussions of controversial topics, including a graft probe that was revealed on Dec. 17, 2013, implicating important AK Party figures. RTanduK requested that the YSK issue a warning to these media outlets, many of which have been punished.
RTanduK has fined the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group more than 80 times since December 2013, though the group had previously received only three fines in 20 years. CEO Hidayet Karaca remains in jail following a government-orchestrated operation carried out on Dec. 14 of last year.
Karaca, who is currently being held without an indictment and with no explanation for the recent extension of his detention, was arrested as part of a major crackdown on the media just three days before the first anniversary of the massive corruption investigations that were made public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, and implicated prominent politicians, ministers, businessmen and others from the inner circles of the AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
RTanduK and the YSK have fined the media group more than TL 5 million since Dec. 17, 2013, after it broadcast programs featuring voices critical of the government, determining that it had failed to remain impartial prior to the local and presidential elections of 2014.
However, almost none of the pro-government media organizations, including state-run broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), were fined, despite having strict, pro-government editorial policies and refusing to let those with dissenting opinions appear on programs broadcast during the same period.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman