On May 28th, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) initiated an investigation into six channels for their non-compliance with the broadcasting bans imposed by the Supreme Election Council (YSK) during the presidential runoff. It is interesting to note that these channels (HALK TV, TELE 1, KRT, TV4, Flash Haber, and SZC TV) share a common broadcasting policy that opposes the government. In the RTÜK announcement, it was reported that the statement made by Çiğdem Toker, a programmer at FOX TV, saying "Democracy does not consist of the ballot box," is under review by the board. The Supreme Council will decide on this matter once the report is finalized.
Furthermore, the announcement mentioned that complaints from viewers have been received regarding speeches that aim to demean our honorable nation with insults and attacks following the opening of the polls and the announcement of results. These complaints are also being examined.
In response to the investigation, RTÜK President Ebubekir Şahin stated, "We will not stay silent in the face of these attitudes that disrespect the national will, democracy, and election results, and insult our people while attempting to humiliate our beloved nation." He hinted at the possibility of imposing fines on opposition channels.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that Çiğdem Toker's statement, "democracy does not consist of the ballot box," which prompted an investigation by RTÜK, is not problematic. Political science and democratic theory have extensively discussed and defended this viewpoint. The phrase "democracy does not consist of the ballot box" implies that elections alone are not sufficient to establish a democratic political system. While elections are a necessary component, a truly democratic system also upholds individual rights and freedoms through constitutional protections, independent of the majority's will. This comprehensive understanding of democracy, often referred to as liberal democracy, emphasizes the importance of pluralism. Therefore, interpreting this statement as advocating for non-electoral means to determine or remove a government, or as endorsing a coup d'état, reflects either a limited understanding or malicious intent on the part of those who do so.
RTÜK's investigation into opposition channels does not come as a surprise. It has been evident for many years that both the Chairman of the Board and the Board's decisions have been driven by a clear intention to penalize opposition media outlets whenever possible. However, it is crucial to recognize that this attempt to punish opposition channels under the pretense of "protecting democracy (!)" is tragically detrimental to democracy itself.
Democracy is not solely about the expression of "national will." It encompasses a wide range of liberal-democratic values, including free and fair electoral competition, civil liberties such as freedom of expression, press freedom, and association, as well as the rule of law, checks and balances, and judicial independence. Disregarding these fundamental principles leads to the dominance of the majority, where the democratic system transforms into a zero-sum game where the winner takes all and the loser loses everything.
The supposed motive of "protecting democracy" behind the targeting of opposition media outlets is deeply concerning, as it undermines the very essence of democracy. Instead of fostering a healthy democratic environment that embraces diverse perspectives and encourages robust debate, such actions contribute to the erosion of democratic values and the concentration of power. It is crucial to uphold the principles of democracy, including the protection of freedom of the press and the independence of media outlets, to ensure a vibrant and pluralistic democratic society.