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Double standard for press freedom in Turkey

Neither local nor Western press groups condemned the heavy penalties on the pro-government aHaber TV station.
Journalists demanding freedom for the media take part in a protest against Turkey's ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara February 15, 2014. The signs read: "Journalism is asking questions, not keeping silent" (L) and "Press freedom also means people's freedom to access information" (C and R). REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MEDIA) - RTX18VGG
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Press freedom in Turkey is an important and equally complex matter, which I have reported on previously in an Al-Monitor article. The complexity of the problem stems from the complexity of Turkey’s political system. Some analysts see Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government as the only obstacle to press freedom in the country, arguing that the authoritarian government wants to have only docile media and suppresses critical voices. No doubt, there are cases of government interference in press freedom, but a recent incident demonstrates how complicated the situation actually is.

In April, the Higher Electoral Board (YSK) and the Higher Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) slapped a program suspension penalty — 28 programs on one occasion and 17 on the other — on the pro-government aHaber TV station, the channel of the daily Sabah, one of Turkey’s two largest-selling newspapers along with Hurriyet. The Sabah group is headed by a powerful figure — the brother of Erdogan’s son-in-law. So, a pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) TV channel, run by an Erdogan relative, will have a total of 90 hours of its programming suspended and incur significant commercial losses. The scale of the penalty is unprecedented. Not even less influential pro-AKP channels have faced such severe sanctions. AHaber’s management says the reason behind this press freedom violation is their unequivocal struggle against the Gulenist parallel setup within the state, which is seen as a criminal organization.

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