Turkey Prosecutes Dissident Fox News Anchorman
A Turkish prosecutor on Friday launched an investigation into Fox News Turkey presenter Fatih Portakal less than two weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly lambasted the journalist, local media reported.
The prosecutor’s office said it was investigating Portakal for “openly inciting others to commit a crime” after the journalist speculated whether Turks could protest like the “Yellow Vest” movement in France, Hurriyet and Milliyet dailies said.
“Come on, let’s have a peaceful protest, a protest against … rising natural gas fees. Come on, let’s do it. Would we be able to do it?” the journalist who has over six million followers on Twitter asked.
“For the love of God, tell me how many people would come out?” Portakal demanded as he speculated over the impact of Turks’ fears of protesting during his live news program on December 10.
During anti-government protests in 2013, Erdogan was criticized for the police’s heavy-handed crackdown against demonstrators.
Portakal’s comments were interpreted by Turkish officials as a call for protests as the country is suffering high inflation. Consumer prices reached over 25 percent in October before falling to 21.62 percent in November.
Portakal had made the comments during a news segment about France’s “Yellow Vest” movement, which started as a demonstration against fuel price hikes in November but have since snowballed into broader anti-government opposition.
Erdogan has repeatedly criticized the journalist for his comments, saying in mid-December: “He is calling people to get out on the street. Know your place! If you don’t know your place, the people will teach you a lesson.”
Earlier this week, Turkey’s audiovisual authority RTUK fined Fox News Turkey for an undisclosed amount and said the channel had to suspend three future broadcasts of the primetime news show.
Fox News Turkey gives greater coverage to the opposition parties than other mainstream channels in an increasingly constricted media landscape in Turkey under the rule of Erdogan.
The investigation comes after two famous Turkish actors were accused of insulting Erdogan during a television program on Halk TV last week.
An Istanbul court on Monday released the two men on conditional bail after they were summoned to give statements to prosecutors.
Turkey’s allies and human rights defenders have raised concerns of a clampdown on freedom of expression under Erdogan, with dozens of journalists and civil society activists imprisoned.