May 22, 2015

Akın İpek emphasizes press freedoms as a core business principle

The Chairman of the Koza İpek Media Group Akın İpek underlines the values of an independent press, advising the principles of the rule of law preside over cases, including government-backed operations against state officials.

Akın İpek candidly answered questions from Bugün TV Editor-in-Chief Tarık Toros in an one-on-one interview, where he firmly stated that he is no member of any “parallel state," further emphasizing that press freedom was a core principle of Koza İpek Media Group’s publishing and broadcast philosophy.

Answering questions pertaining to the repeated attacks from pro-government media over his business establishments, İpek stated, “Ours is a group of five thousand people. We have operations in various industries. It has been 30 years since I started this business and I have never wondered, known nor asked the language, religion, race, party affiliation or voting habits of the people around me. And none of our friends here know each others' personal situations in that sense. What we try to do here is just do our jobs right. And our work, the international competitions that we participate in and the awards that we get are proof of this. Our group’s most important values are our morals, humane approach and our caring for the work we do. Those are the basic principles that we have.”


“In this group we have about 5,000 employees. We were the third largest private taxpayer in 2012 and our company keeps on growing. We have experienced considerable growth in the last decade and that is a consequence of our style of business. As a group we like to take risks. This has been the case since my late father’s time and it is still going on. We do all we that can, we meet all the requirements of a particular task, and then we go into it, hoping for the best from Allah."

“I said who I was at the beginning of my career, I say the same things today too. I always speak my mind and do what I believe is right. I want to be remembered fondly when I've passed away. I never do anything which would embarrass me in the future. This is the lifestyle I try to live by; my family follows a similar style.”


Speaking about his newspapers' columnists’ writings, İpek firmly stated that there were no political or ideological interferences. “I am not the type of individual who would fire someone for their beliefs, or to profile people into lists, to set any example. As an owner of a newspaper, I am the one who gets phoned over columnists' editorials. When people call me about it, I say that the person who writes in the newspaper has a column and that he is a columnist. Columnists would not allow me to interfere with their writing, and must not allow me to do so. I don’t have anything to do with it. If anyone calls me about it, I say that the newspaper has an Editor-in-Chief, and news directors, and to just contact them.”

“I am not the type of person that would check in every five minutes and say ‘why were certain things written the way they were?' I can’t do that. I believe that everyone should express their views openly without getting insulted; thus the truth shall reveal itself. When pressure is exerted and people start attacking each other with slander and lies, then it defies its purpose.”

Underlining that when he bought the Kanaltürk TV channel he requested experts from all strata of society, İpek said, “And my friends asked to be able to speak freely. Thus we can learn something new. There must be differences between others and myself. But I have really learned lot of things from them when they speak from their own perspectives.”

Asked about when pressure began to be applied to his business and his personal life, İpek said “For example if I told a journalist at my newspaper to fabricate news and publish it, no one would do that. If someone were able to do that, it would mean that we were already out of control and that the media group needed to be shut down. The ethics of our media group are professional ethics codes. When you look back in the future, will you say 'I did my duty and wrote the right things,' or will you say ‘I wrote fabricated news’? I never ordered anyone around me to do anything illegal or take part in something unethical. If I have to pay the price because I do the right things, I will pay for it, and today I am paying the price because of this.”

Regarding the recent government-imposed media accreditation ban on several media groups, including the İpek Media group, Akın İpek recalled that he had sent a letter to the General Staff of Turkey when the military also had imposed an accreditation ban in past.

Reminding that he personally sent a letter to Mehmet İlker Başbuğ, the 26th Chief of the General Staff of Turkey when the military imposed an accreditation ban, Akın İpek stated “I asked them not to discriminate against media workers, explaining that we were just doing our jobs, just like any ordinary person. Our organization has more than 500 journalists with different worldviews. If you discriminate against all media workers, actually you will target the some of the same people who might empathize with your party. Certainly workers may have different political views, it’s inevitable. It's like burning a whole town to eliminate three criminals instead of executing those three, but it's also clear whether they are guilty or not. They might be police officers, innocent people who engage with their own business, lawyers, doctors in that town...on what grounds can people destroy a whole town for the want of three criminals?”


Koza İpek Holding’s Chairman Akın İpek elaborated over the persecution and profiling his business group has faced ever since the December 17-25 corruption probe. The government has controversially targeted officials in the state bureaucracy, media and civil society as being members of a “parallel state,” a term coined by the government and President Erdoğan to implicate members of the Hizmet Movement, consisting of followers and sympathizers of Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gülen.

“I am not a ‘parallel,’ nor do I have any illegal contacts with anyone within the state,” added the Chairman of Koza İpek Holding, continuing, “This whole idea of a parallel state organization is a new phenomenon; I have no business with state affairs nor any relation with the state officials outside of the law.”

“The key point is this; Who is parallel? And how do you determine this?” asks Akın İpek, “Is it written on peoples’ foreheads? Or, are people ‘parallel’ merely because you believe them to be so?”

The Koza İpek Holding Chairman took the issue head on; “Let me address all state bodies very clearly. The definition of parallel is as follows: someone who is working as a state official, who, instead of carrying out his official duties according to the law, is operating illegally under directions from a person behind the scenes.”


Akın İpek provided a further explanation, “I am saying; save us all from this 'parallel.' Is it not my place to ask that any state official who is not acting within their powers granted by the law would in effect have a potential of being a parallel organization? They should clean them all out of the state.”

Expressing that there should be no discrimination amongst any potential wrongdoers, “It is not important what their world view is or who they are. There was nothing that we could have done; if we were able to help we would have helped.”

“Allow all state officials to do their jobs; what’s important is if they are compliant with the law. Are they doing their job given them by the law? Are they operating within the framework of the law? Is the law put equally upon people? They should look into whether state officials are doing this or not.”


Akın İpek elaborated on his acquaintance with Mr. Gülen, emphasizing that the scholar had absolutely no demands, nor a hidden agenda. “There is nothing in this world that Mr. Gülen wants for himself nor any approval for anything to be done for him. If I were to say ‘can we do this for you?’ he would say ‘God forbid, Mr. İpek, no.’ I have witnessed this first hand. I have never been asked nor even had five cents spent to Mr. Gülen or anywhere Mr. Gülen points to, nor have I ever received a request. I have no other aid except for what is official and within the group I control.”

Akın İpek emphasized strongly that he does not support any political party, underlining the transparent nature in which he conducts business and other affairs.

“I have no aid except that which I provided to my own group companies or official aid I have made. The statement that I am the financier of the Hizmet Movement’s media is a total lie. My establishments have been through regular audits as far back as I can remember.”

“Apart from my own establishments there is no other entity I pay money to. Everything is official. In such a group officially audited, where the inflow and outflow of money, if I were to tell a lie, wouldn’t have they come back to haunt me time and time again? There is no such thing. I am no one’s financier or supporter.”


“As a group we have chosen up until this point to not talk about aid efforts we take part in. Now from time to time I have had to explain. As a holding, after taxes, we have paid close TL 230 million in aid to social projects.”

“Within these charitable donations are aid packages distributed during Ramadan for the needy, assistance to mosques, religious vocational schools, and schools. We have even donated to many state schools.”

“In the past two years I have built and donated schools worth TL 10 billion to the Ministry of Education. And even though they ask me, I still do not deduct this from taxes. I already pay 80 percent of it net out of my pocket, 20 percent is already deducted as per regulations. I gave 80 percent of the school to the state, and while doing so I have expressed that they show solidarity with the state. We should build our schools and give them to the state.”


Akın İpek vowed to continue charitable work and contribute to the state. “We will continue our charitable work in Turkey. We will continue to contribute to the country through official routes such as the Ministry of Education.”

“My mother had gone to Kahramanmaraş province for the opening of the third school as part of a charity. The governor did not attend. God bless him, he is not required to come by any means and we will continue to provide these charitable efforts irrespective of whether they come or not. Because of our beliefs, I believe that the money we earn cannot be taken to the other side. We earned a great deal in this country, and we have a responsibility to share with the people of this country. God willing we are earning and sharing with the people of this country; and we will continue to do so.”

Akın İpek also touched upon the example of his late father Ali İpek. “When my father, who was a good industrialist, passed away, he left behind two factories and was exporting to 25 nations. He lived a good life, going under machines with the suits he wore and worked in. He was someone who would give his coat to a person in need. He gave us the advice to never work with or for the state, don’t work with a state bank, and we followed his words. Thank God we are working, and we will share what we have with the people.”


Even if all the institutions of a country collapse, but the rule of law remains, that country can still stand on its feet. On the contrary, if a country’s law has collapsed, it cannot be rescued, even if all its institutions are in palce. Irrespective of what world view or identity we have, the rule of law is the number one principle we have to value, both for the sake of the future as well as the past."

“If you were to blame someone for being a parallel, you have to convey that within the rule of law. You have to put forward exactly how you are charging people for being a member of a terrorist group. You cannot casually just implicate people; doing so would be a crime. I have just provided the criteria for defining someone as a parallel. If someone is deliberately not doing their job, they are a member of the parallel group. And if he is engaging in activities outside of his authority than that is a parallel crime. And if there is an individual who is whispering into his ear telling him to do things outside of the confines of his authorities, then that individual is the parallel big brother.”

“Such incidents cannot be hidden forever, every crime will be brought to light sooner or later. I believe we should conduct everything and find a solution according to the law."

Published on BGNNews, 22 May 2015, Friday