October 27, 2015

EU says concerned about Koza İpek takeover

The European Union expressed concern on Tuesday about the appointment of a board of trustees to take over the management of companies and media outlets of Koza İpek Holding on the eve of parliamentary election on Nov. 1.

"Latest developments concerning Koza İpek Holding are worrying and we follow them closely," Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said in response to a question. "Turkey as any country negotiating EU membership needs to ensure the respect of human rights, including freedom of expression, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The EU will continue raising the issue of the freedom of expression with the Turkish authorities as a matter of priority," she said.

The seizure has intensified concerns in Turkey and within the EU, which Turkey seeks to join, about threats to the freedom of the media and attempts to silence critics of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, also expressed deep concern on Tuesday about the pre-election seizure.

“Deeply concerned abt seizure of Koza Ipek group right ahead of 1/11 elections in #Turkey. Free media a cornerstone of vibrant democracies,” Schulz wrote on his Twitter account.

Police teams entered the offices of Koza İpek Holding in İstanbul and Ankara after a court decision on Monday to hand over the administration of 22 companies to a board of trustees. The 22 companies include two newspapers and two popular television channels who have recently emerged as a main platform for opposition politicians.

Reacting to the news, senior members of the European Parliament said the decision to seize İpek Koza Holding should be revised.

In a joint press release, Rebecca Harms, Co-President of the Greens/ EFA Group in the European Parliament, and Guy Verhofstadt, Chair of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, complained the move was an attempt to silence critical media.

"The obvious attempt to directly influence critical Turkish media voices has to be stopped immediately,” they said. “Freedom of speech and independent media are an indispensable prerequisite for any democracy especially in period ahead elections. The crystal-clear undemocratic maneuver against IPEK prior to the Turkish election will not silence critics. As Europeans we urge President Erdogan to listen and to discuss deviant opinions and to stop the strategy of silencing opposition. IPEK seizure has to be revised immediately."

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 October 2015, Tuesday