President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened Turkish media with reprisals if they disseminate content that damages the country’s core values.
In a notice published in the Official Gazette, he said measures were needed to protect Turkey’s “national culture” and prevent its children’s development “from being adversely affected as a result of exposure to harmful content on all written, verbal and visual media”.
Erdogan did not specify what such content was, but said legal action would be taken against “overt or covert activities through the media aimed at undermining our national and moral values and disrupting our family and social structure”.
Turkey’s leader has been in power for nearly 20 years and has often criticised media content that is out of step with values espoused by his AK Party.
Turkey has in recent years also moved to increase media oversight, with about 90 percent of major media now owned by the state or close to the government.
The RTUK radio and television watchdog has sweeping oversight over all online content, which it also has the power to remove.
It has fined TV stations over footage it says violates Turkish values, such as music videos it has labelled “erotic”, LGBTQ references or content it deems to have insulted the president.
Tens of thousands have been prosecuted under the latter law including Sedef Kabas, a well-known journalist jailed last week pending trial after posting a proverb about Erdogan’s palace on her Twitter account and repeating it on an opposition television channel.
Erdogan on Wednesday promised Kabas’s “offence” would not go unpunished.
He denounced a suggestion by the opposition Republican People’s Party that the crime of insulting the president, which carries a jail sentence of one to four years, should be scrapped.
The Turkish journalists’ union has called Kabas’s arrest a “serious attack on freedom of expression”.