December 26, 2018 / 8:39 PM / 4 months ago

Turkey fines opposition TV channels for on-air comments

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, December 25, 2018. Cem Oksuz/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has fined two of the last television channels critical of the government over on-air comments which allegedly insulted the country’s president and encouraged civil disobedience, a television watchdog official told Reuters on Wednesday.

A talk show on Halk TV will be suspended temporarily by the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) over comments made by prominent actors Mujdat Gezen and Metin Akpinar, an RTUK official said.

Broadcaster Haberturk reported that a Turkish prosecutor had launched an investigation and asked Akpinar and Gezen to make a statement, in which they denied charges of insulting the president and encouraging disobedience.

Insulting the president is considered a crime in Turkey.

Three future broadcasts of the prime news program on Turkey’s Fox TV were also suspended after comments by a news anchor were interpreted as calling for protests against a hike in natural gas prices, the RTUK official said.

Both channels received administrative fines.

Turkey remains the world’s worst offender against press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in an annual study, with at least 68 journalists imprisoned for anti-state charges.

The country’s western allies have voiced concern over the continuing crackdown on journalists, academics and rights activists and criticized Erdogan for using it to muzzle dissent and increase his own power.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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