September 2, 2015

Journalists criticize raids on İpek Media Group

Prominent journalists in Turkey have taken to Twitter to express their outrage at the recent police raid on Koza İpek Holding, which includes media outlets, a university and businesses, noting the danger to press freedom in the country as a new round of censorship hits the media.

Auditors accompanied by a police escort conducted a raid on the offices of Koza İpek Holding in Ankara on Tuesday morning, with simultaneous raids on subsidiaries of the group carried out elsewhere. The Turkish dailies Bugün and Millet, TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk and the website are all subsidiaries of the İpek Media Group.

The editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, Can Dündar, shared images of the front pages of the Bugün and Sözcü dailies, writing: “Two newspapers going into elections… If you try to silence all the newspapers, then you cannot hide the truth.”

Prominent investigative journalist İsmail Saymaz wrote on his Twitter account, “One people, one state, one media.”

Taraf columnist Hayko Bağdat wrote: “No newspaper or journalist is safe. Who knows how many crimes they [the government] must have committed.”

Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was detained on Dec. 14 of last year as part of a government-backed police operation against high-level media members, directors and producers of a popular television serial and police officers, also criticized the raid on İpek Media Group on Twitter. “Carrying out police raids on Bugün is an attempt to change the democratic judicial system [of Turkey] when a snap election is two months away,” Dumanlı said.

Speaking later to the Samanyolu news channel, Dumanlı said: “Turkey is facing the loud, approaching steps of fascism. Everyone needs to get their act together. The Constitution cannot be trampled on like this.”

Dumanlı continued: “The issue is not just between the [Gülen] movement and the [Justice and Development Party] AK Party. If it was just between the movement and the AK Party, people would take 10 steps back and say, ‘Do whatever you want'.” He then warned that Turkey was moving in the direction of Middle Eastern countries where civil rights are often trampled on by the government. In reference to the growing authoritarian measures taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party, Dumanlı stated: “We are going in the direction of single-party rule. While asking for one nation under one flag, we got one man with one party. This needs to end now.”

Today's Zaman columnist Yavuz Baydar called on Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş to condemn the raid “on a live broadcast immediately. If the media is silenced, opposing voices will also be silenced.”

Journalist and author Nevval Sevindi said that silencing independent media outlets is something that would only be done by people who lack a conscience.

Much of the commentary by journalists alluded to the “pool media,” a phrase used to describe pro-government media groups that were purchased using a pool fund set up by wealthy supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cüney Oruç, the managing editor of the Taraf daily, also wrote on Twitter, “We will not let the media drown in pools and swamps.”

Today's Zaman columnist Sevgi Akarçeşme wrote: “Shame on you! You think that this treatment is suitable for Akın İpek, one of the most honest businessmen in this country! … We will see how media outlets react to this.”

FOX TV anchorman Fatih Portakal also criticized the raid, writing on Twitter: “Being terrorized, suppressed and silenced -- that's what happens when you're not a pro-government journalist in Turkey. So be it -- we [journalists] will not give in.”

Journalist and television presenter Sedef Kabaş, who was detained and later released in December of last year because she posted tweets critical of the government's handling of a major corruption investigation, also criticized the raid on Twitter. “The police raid on the Koza İpek media group is an obvious example of one man's hate of independent media,” she wrote.

Tuncay Opçin, the publishing manager for the magazine Chronicle, described the raid by saying, “An organization that looks like a government is attacking Kanaltürk and the Bugün daily.”

Ünal Tanık, the editor-in-chief of Internet news site Rotahaber, also condemned the raid. “Those who financially support terrorist organizations are terrorizing people who never hurt anybody in their lives. I condemn what has happened to the Koza İpek group,” he wrote.

Today's Zaman columnist Abdülhamit Bilici wrote on Twitter, “Carrying out operations to silence the media in a country where soldiers are killed every day and a snap election will be held [two months later] is a blow to democracy and the opposition.”

Detained journalist Baransu offers his support

Detained Taraf journalist Mehmet Baransu, who was taken in handcuffs from Silivri Prison to the Okmeydanı Oral and Dental Health Hospital on the day of the raid, expressed his solidarity with the media group to a group of reporters. “There is pressure on the media. Journalists are being paraded around with handcuffs on their wrists. It won't be long, though; don't worry. I'm sorry to hear what happened to the Bugün newspaper and the television stations. I do not know which media group will be operated on next,” he said.

Baransu has been held in prison since March 1, when around 30 police officers raided and searched his home in the Eyüp district of İstanbul for 12 hours before detaining him for questioning in relation to documents he submitted to prosecutors in 2010 about the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plot. On March 2, Baransu was arrested by the İstanbul 5th Penal Court of Peace.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 September 2015, Tuesday