June 5, 2015

Cihan news agency files criminal complaint against pro-gov’t Sabah for slander

The Cihan news agency has filed a criminal complaint against the pro-government Sabah daily for engaging in a defamation campaign against the news agency in its Wednesday coverage, alleging that Cihan is plotting to manipulate the results of this Sunday's general election.

Cihan's lawyers said on Friday the report published by Sabah is full of libel and insult from start to finish and aims to target the agency.

The lawyers also underlined that a claim for compensation will be filed as soon as possible on the grounds that Sabah intended to damage the news agency's reputation and cause unfair competition among news agencies through fake allegations.

Cihan, which is respected both domestically and internationally for its successful election coverage over the past 12 years, was accused by Sabah of engaging in a plan to twist the election results.

In a news report on its website on Wednesday, Sabah claimed Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, which is affiliated with Cihan, Cihan General Manager Abdülhamit Bilici and Deputy General Manager Hakan İnce are behind efforts to manipulate the results of Sunday's election in order to stir chaos in society and cast a shadow over the results.

Sabah's report also published a photo taken in 2012 showing İnce together with main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as though it was taken recently. The daily alleged İnce recently visited the CHP headquarters in Ankara to work out a so-called "chaos plan" that will be put into practice on election day and that the photo was taken from that meeting.

However, İnce said in a statement he has not been to Ankara in the past year and has not met with any CHP official.

"The Cihan news agency has turned into a brand in terms of accurately announcing the election results. The agency has managed to publish the election results in the most transparent, accurate and quickest manner during the last eight elections. We have always been praised for doing our duty in the best way and we do not receive any instructions from anyone while doing our jobs. As it is alleged immorally, we have not engaged in any secret meeting or plan. They are trying to defame me and the news agency through these fabricated reports. I have been targeted by this fake coverage. I will sue for damages," İnce noted.

The Cihan news agency is known for its nationwide network and effective organization during elections and has built a reputation for providing extremely quick and reliable information about the vote counting process, dominating the sector in Turkey over the past two decades. It has won the praise of many media organizations for its coverage of the past eight elections in the country. Many leading TV channels, websites and news portals use Cihan as their primary source of information. Even the Sabah daily's website, sabah.com.tr, cooperated with Cihan for six consecutive elections since 2002.

Despite the fact that leading figures from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have praised the agency in the past for its accurate reporting of election results, the agency is currently being attacked by pro-government circles because of the government's ongoing war against the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. Cihan operates under the Feza Media Group, which was established by sympathizers of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The AK Party government and Erdoğan launched a war against the Gülen movement and Gülen-inspired organizations following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 that implicated Erdoğan's inner circle. Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, accused the movement of masterminding the probe to overthrow the government, a claim strongly rejected by the movement.

Published on Today's Zaman, 05 June 2015, Friday