Turkey’s watchdog reshuffles employees without reason

Turkey’s TV watchdog has transferred several employees to an inactive department without justification, critical media outlet Evrensel reported on Monday.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), which is Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog authority has reportedly reshuffled the ranks of approximately 40 specialists, making them redundant.

Some critics interpreted the RTUK’s move as the first step to transfer them to other public institutions, as was the case with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) – the national public broadcaster of the country.

Although the civil servants are believed to be qualified experts who have served since the council’s establishment, they were reassigned to the RTUK’s inactive strategy development department.

Resul Akay, a former RTUK employee, and a former labor union leader, reacted to the RTUK ruling saying, “Prior to the Feast [of Ramadan], highly qualified employees with 25 years’ experience were all made redundant at the same time – civil servants discarded like waste,” Akay said.

Akay further slammed the RTUK administration for, he claims, making the RTUK employees and their families feel uneasy and unhappy.

“The RTUK is not an inheritance from your ancestors. Your duty is to provide a high-level service [with your personnel], instead of making them redundant,” Akay declared.

“RTUK is the executive office of the ruling party”

The RTUK was established in 1994 to oversee and regulate the broadcasting sector in the country. The RTUK’s board is composed of nine members; five of whom are appointed by the government and four by opposition parties.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime expanded the RTUK’s powers to include the monitoring of online content providers, which led to digital censorship. The move came, critics say, after the online world of websites, blogs, social media, etc., emerged as the center of opposition in Turkey, notably in the aftermath of the failed coup in 2016.

The regulation grants the RTUK watchdog authority to issue or reject broadcasting licenses without providing a reason or explanation, giving complete power over digital content, Kerem Altiparmak, human rights lawyer, said.

According to the law, the RTUK stands as an independent institution. However, many individuals, including members of the institution, have questioned its independence.

Ismet Demirdogen, who was chosen as the RTUK member from the quota of CHP, said that the watchdog has turned into an executive office of the ruling

Justice and Development Party (AKP), which targets its dissidents. “Even the most innocent expressions or opinions [are] regarded as a crime by those targeted by the group. The RTUK is also being used as a silencing tool for political power,” Demirdogen added.

Turkey’s watchdog imposed more than 16,000 sanctions on the media and as many as 250 million lira (nearly $45 million) in fines for violating broadcasting regulations over an eight-year period from 2010-2018, according to the RTUK’s own statistics.

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