Provisions and Restrictions Concerning the Media

Executive Decree 680 Articles 16-21 concerning media service providers have introduced numerous provisions on the media. Article 16 added paragraph (ı) to Article 50 of the Law on Radio and Television, outlining the procedures for the employment of contracted personnel at TRT.

Article 17, on the other hand, added paragraph 4 to the Article 7 of the Law on the Foundation and Broadcasting Services of Radios and TVs, introducing severe restrictions to press freedoms. Accordingly, in case of a violation of the broadcasting bans and restrictions specified in the Law on the Press, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) shall impose a one day broadcast ban to the media services provider in question, and apply Article 32 paragraph 4. In case this violation is repeated within a year, RTÜK may impose a second broadcast ban of up to five days; a ban of up to 15 days in case of a third violation; and a permanent abrogation of the broadcast license in case of a fourth violation.

These provisions represent severe sanctions on press and media outlets. Furthermore, these provisions are not limited to the state of emergency, and are permanent. In case of a violation of the broadcast restrictions specified in the Law on the Press, the broadcast can be totally banned, broadcasting license may be abolished in a severe and disproportionate sanction, and the rights to receive and disseminate news and press freedoms -which lay the groundwork for democracy- can be severely damaged. The provision is also in breach of Article 13 of the Constitution which states that any restrictions of rights and freedoms must be proportionate.

Executive Decree 680 Article 18 has abolished the Law’s Article 8 paragraph (d) on Broadcasting Service Principles which read “Terror acts, perpetrators and victims cannot be presented in a manner that serves the purposes of terror,” and added the paragraph (t) which reads “Terror acts, perpetrators and victims cannot be presented in a manner that leads to consequences that serve the purposes of terror.”

Executive Decree Article 19 has added the paragraph 2 to the Article 19 of the Law, authorizing the Radio and Television Supreme Council to reject license demands for reasons of national defense, protection of public order, and public interest. The paragraph 3 added to the same article states that RTÜK will reject the license applications of media services providers whose partners or chairman or board members have links or connections to terror organizations according to the National Intelligence Organization or General Directorate of Security reports.

These provisions grant vast and arbitrary powers to the Radio and Television Supreme Council in rejecting license applications by media outlets. Rejecting the license application of a media outlet in the absence of a court verdict, only on the basis of a National Intelligence Service or General Directorate of Security report on “links or connection to terror organizations” is a very severe sanction, which also goes against the principle of the presumption of innocence.

Executive Decree 687 has made a number of amendments designed to enhance the authority of Radio and Television Supreme Council over broadcasters. Article 8 has changed the wording of the Law’s Article 26 paragraph 8 sentences 1 and 2 on frequency planning and assignment, obliging private media services providers to broadcast via radio and TV transmission stations established and / or run by a single transmission facility and operating company. The state will have a 50% stake in this single transmission facility and operating company, whose principles and authorization will be determined by the Radio and Television Supreme Council.

Executive Decree 687 Article 11 has assigned certain duties to the Radio and Television Supreme Council, Ministry of Finance and Security Deposit Insurance Fund, in order to facilitate and accelerate the sales of the licenses and assets of the radios and TVs closed by State of Emergency executive decrees. These radios’ and TVs’ broadcasting licenses, rights, frequency and channel assignments and similar licenses from the Radio and Television Supreme Council valid as of July 15, 2016, will be reallocated by the Radio and Television Supreme Council at the behest of the Ministry of Finance. In case these broadcasting licenses, rights, frequency and channel assignments and similar licenses are sold off, the transfer and registry procedures of the buyers will be completed within a month with immediate effect, once the necessary documents are completed and upon the notification of the Security Deposit Insurance Fund.

Executive Decree 687 has also abolished Article 149/A of the Law on the Basic Provisions for Elections and Voter Records, concerning “offenses related to private radio and TV broadcasts”, which necessitated broadcasting bans and penalties to those broadcasts breaching the principles set by the Supreme Election Board, and the principle of equality. Article 149/A obliged the Supreme Election Board to impose broadcasting bans and penalties on those private radios and TVs breaching these principles. The executive decree has thus eliminated any Supreme Election Board control on broadcasting violations such as not giving sufficient air time to opposition parties.

Executive Decree 690 Articles 58-62 have made amendments to the Law on the Foundation and Broadcasting Services of Radios and TVs. Companies engaged in commercial broadcasts in Turkish or other languages towards Turkey via satellites belonging to Turkey have been brought under the jurisdiction of Turkish courts, and have been obliged to get a license from Radio and Television Supreme Council. Chat programs, friend and spouse finding programs and programs selling food supplements were banned. Radio and Television Supreme Council’s sanctions on broadcasters such as administrative penalties, broadcast bans, and license cancellation have been redefined. Radio and Television Supreme Council can now offer monetary incentives to family- and children-friendly TV series in order to protect the family and support the physical, mental and moral development of the youth and children as per the principles set forth by the Ministry of Family, at an amount which will not surpass the 20% of the penalties it imposed in the previous year.

As per Executive Decree 703 Article 95, Law on Turkish Radio and Television was revised to bring TRT under the authority of the President. TRT was granted the right to establish companies subject to special legal provisions or create partnerships with domestic or overseas natural and legal persons; while all public tender procedures concerning TRT’s buying, selling, service, consulting, construction and transportation operations throughout these activities became exempt from Law on Public Tenders, and Law on Public Tender Contracts. The same article made it easier to retire TRT personnel, and the category of ‘Personnel Subject to Special Legal Provisions’ was created to replace contracted personnel, which was interpreted by press trade unions and public sector unions as laying the groundwork for mass dismissals from TRT and their replacement with pro-government employees.

Article 164 of Executive Decree 703 amended the Law on the Foundation and Broadcasting Services of Radios and TVs, introducing the obligation for radios and televisions to broadcast at least 90 minutes of cautionary and instructive programs, to be supervised by Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).