May 22, 2015

Samanyolu files complaint against prosecutor seeking to silence dissident media

Turkey's Samanyolu Broadcasting Group has filed a complaint with the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) against Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun over his recent controversial bid to silence dissident media outlets.

Lawyers Fikret Duran and Bahadır Temiz, representing the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, have petitioned the HSYK, stating that the prosecutor's demand to prohibit media outlets critical of the government from using the state's communications infrastructure openly violates international treaties, to which Turkey is a signatory, as well as domestic laws. According to the petition, the prosecutor's request constitutes a crime.

In the petition, Samanyolu asked the HSYK to launch disciplinary and criminal inquiries into the prosecutor, referencing rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Coşkun, an Ankara prosecutor who is in charge of the Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, sent a letter to the Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) Directorate General on April 27 asking it to prevent a state-owned satellite connection from being used by media outlets that, according to him, have links to the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

The reason behind the controversial move, which came shortly before the June general election, is allegedly because anti-government media outlets "create polarization in society and terrorize people.” If the prosecutor's demand is approved, opposition parties will be deprived of the means to conduct their campaigns and convey their messages to the nation for the June election because most of the media in Turkey, which is controlled by the AK Party government, have little or no coverage of the election campaigns of opposition parties.

The media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into claims about the “parallel structure,” and particularly targets the media outlets inspired by the Gülen movement. The demand reportedly includes “TV stations, radio stations, websites and printed publications.”

The “parallel structure” is a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after a massive corruption scandal to refer to members of the Gülen movement -- inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- who allegedly operate from within the police and the judiciary.

On Thursday, the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, and another MEP leveled criticism over Coşkun's request, emphasizing that the European Parliament is very concerned over the news coming from Turkey.

Noting the European Parliament is closely monitoring all developments on the issue, Piri said some dissident media outlets have been put under increasing pressure by pro-government circles in Turkey, adding that some reporters affiliated with the Zaman media group were thrown out of events that were attended by figures linked to the government.

Published on Today's Zaman, 22 May 2015, Friday