October 9, 2015

Boycott of Digiturk for dropping 7 stations prompts widespread cancellation of subscriptions

Consumer unions, politicians, journalists and civil society groups have joined the campaign to boycott the Digiturk satellite network after it stopped broadcasting seven stations thought to be critical of the government, while thousands of viewers have canceled their subscriptions.

As a part of increased outrage regarding Digiturk's decision, the Grand Unity Party (BBP) filed a criminal complaint against the network, while the leader of the main opposition party joined the call for a boycott on Friday.

Mehmet Bülent Deniz, the chair of the Federation of Consumers Unions (TBF), also called on Digiturk subscribers to join the boycott on Friday. Tivibu, an online streaming service, had earlier halted its broadcast of the same seven stations.

"These companies should immediately abandon the policy of providing insufficient service to their subscribers. If they persist with this controversial policy they must be aware of the risk of being boycotted by consumers. Digiturk's latest decision is an obvious instance of censorship," Deniz stressed, adding that Article 13 of the law concerning consumer protection states that denying access to certain stations in spite of a court ruling amounts to offering inadequate service and constitutes explicit censorship.

"Those digital platforms should give up their policy of providing deficient service immediately. If they persist, the TBF will provide all necessary legal support to those who plan to cancel their subscriptions," he stated.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Bursa deputy Tevfik Topçu announced on Friday that he had canceled his Digiturk subscription and called on all subscribers to do the same.

Since Digiturk announced that it would no longer be broadcasting the stations, thousands of subscribers have applied to cancel their service via a petition. They also have the right to sue Digiturk by applying to a consumer court to seek compensation.

Digiturk announced its decision on Thursday, in the latest example of the government applying heavy-handed pressure on critical media prior to upcoming Nov. 1 general election. The stations that were silenced are: Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, S. Haber, the children's station Yumurcat TV and Irmak TV.

In reaction to Digiturk's decision, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced on Thursday that he too will unsubscribe and called for all to take the same action in response to the network's "undemocratic and repressive move,” while traveling by plane to Uşak province for a campaign rally.

Stressing that the decision to drop the critical stations was ordered illegally by a prosecutor, rather than by a court ruling, Kılıçdaroğlu stated: "The prosecutor who ordered that these stations be dropped constitutes a breach of the constitution. This order shows that he is not a prosecutor of the republic but one belonging to the government. In the absence of a court ruling, the banning of these stations serves the aims of the government. The CHP already knows that the judiciary is neither impartial nor independent. This latest example is vivid and concrete."

Kılıçdaroğlu noted that the ban on the stations indicates that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is panicking, afraid that it may lose power, and added “but it will unable to continue its rule by imposing such bans.”

Kılıçdaroğlu has reportedly instructed the leaders of CHP provincial and district organizations to cancel their headquarters' subscriptions to Digiturk.

CHP Eskişehir deputy and former journalist Utku Çakırözer also lambasted the network's decision, stating: "This is obviously an illegitimate action. This ban will surely damage the country's reputation across the globe, while eroding its democracy. The right to information is among the most fundamental of rights and cannot be banned."

Former CHP deputy Atilla Kart, who spoke to Today's Zaman correspondent Ali Aslan Kılıç, reiterated that the ban of the stations is illegal and added that the decision reveals that democracy is being targeted in a spirit of hatred and vengeance.

Nationwide reactions to unlawful move

Like many others, Today's Zaman columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz announced on Friday that that he had unsubscribed from Digiturk.

Digiturk released a written statement on Thursday, saying the stations had been removed by order of the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office on the suspicion that they support a terrorist organization.

The Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) condemned Digiturk's move on Friday, emphasizing that it breaches media freedoms and called for the network to reverse its unlawful action.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) İstanbul deputy Hüda Kaya joined in the widespread criticism with a statement to a group of journalists, accusing the government of engaging in an act of intimidation and a smear campaign attempting to muzzle dissent.

"Nearly two weeks ago, 32 members of the Kurdish media faced a similar crackdown. Now, the same pressure is being applied to the stations from Cemaat [a reference to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen]. The Doğan Media Group is also being subjected to similar threats and pressure. A campaign is underway to intimidate all aspects of society that oppose the government. This campaign will be further extended in the wake of the Nov. 1 election. We, together, must take up the voices of the oppressed. We must fight against the elimination of freedoms, “ Kaya stressed.

The deputy referenced a raid conducted by the Diyarbakır Police Department on members of the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) two weeks ago. In the raid, 32 journalists were detained on charges of "promoting terrorism” before being released the same day.

AK Party deputy candidate proposed the censorship

Mehmet Ali Canlı, a candidate in the general election on the AK Party's ticket was behind the proposal to ban the stations, Today's Zaman correspondent Ayşenur Parıldak wrote on Friday.

According to the report, Canlı proposed that critical stations be censored on charges of "propagating terrorism" immediately before being nominated as a deputy candidate from the ranks of the AK Party.

Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun then launched an investigation into the stations on the charges Canlı proposed. Claiming the stations are “in the hands of a terrorist organization," he ordered Digiturk to drop them.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 October 2015, Friday