Turkey’s gov’t watchdog threatens action for future articles on corruption

Turkey’s state-run Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on Tuesday announced that it would be taking legal action against media coverage, which attempts to discredit state institutions, after reports of the watchdog’s misuse of funding made headlines.

RTÜK called for an end to “an understanding of journalism that is geared towards eroding (trust in) state institutions,” following a preliminary financial report by the top Court of Accounts (Sayıştay).

“In case of an insistence on wrongdoing, we would like to remind (all) that there will be legal consequences,” RTÜK said in a tweet.

According to the Court of Accounts audit of RTÜK, published in September, the watchdog had caused 453,963 liras ($57,576) in public damages in 2019, through inflated salary payments and travel expenses for trips abroad, BirGün newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The RTÜK statement called the news stories “slander,” and said they targeted the respectability of the institution and its chairman and members. The audit report is not the final version, it said, adding that their objections were still being assessed.

“The daily travel expenses of the RTÜK chairman and members are calculated over the highest-level public servant for duties abroad,” RTÜK said.

According to Turkish law, travel expenses for members can’t exceed the daily salary of the top bureaucrat in the relevant ministry, in this case the Culture and Tourism Ministry deputy undersecretary, but RTÜK took the top bureaucrat to mean the chairman of the Presidential Administrative Office.