October 14, 2015

ÖiB report: Free media more directly censored in Turkey

The Press for Freedom (ÖiB) platform has pointed to a more direct censorship of the free media in Turkey in its latest monthly report, mentioning the online TV streaming service Tivibu's removal of TV channels that are critical of the government.

The ÖiB's September report states that in addition to social media accounts and official websites of dailies and newspapers being blocked in Turkey, censorship of the free media reached a new extreme in late September when the Tivibu media platform cut off broadcasting for Bugün, Samanyolu Haber and Mehtap TV channels without any justification.

Although it is unmentioned in ÖiB's September report, Turkey's largest satellite TV subscription service, Digitürk, followed in Tivibu's footsteps on Oct. 8 and halted the broadcasts of seven TV channels that are known for their critical stance towards the government.

What many perceive as the government's relentless pressure and censorship of critical media outlets only several weeks ahead of the snap election on Nov. 1 has sparked strong criticism among a large number of local and international politicians, civil society organizations and media members who are expressing their concerns.

The ÖiB platform, a Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) project funded by the European Union as part of its Civil Society Facility Turkey Program, prepares monthly reports to document violations of freedom of the press as well as freedom of expression.

The ÖiB's report also says that lawsuits brought against those who allegedly insulted the president or his family continued without losing pace in September. Though the latest incidents were not mentioned in the ÖiB report, Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş was also arrested last Saturday on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a series of tweets. Keneş, however, was released on Wednesday after being held in one of Turkey's top security prisons, Silivri, where terror suspects and convicts are usually imprisoned.

While noting that threats directed towards certain media outlets and their members have now turned into physical assaults, the ÖiB report mentions two separate attacks on the Hürriyet daily headquarters in early September by a mob of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) sympathizers, including an AK Party deputy, that broke down the daily's glass-panel doors.

The report also states that certain factors, such as the ruling party's refusal to consider coalition options and the targeting of critical media sources, businessmen and opposition politicians by high level members of Parliament and politicians not only leads to more polarization in Turkish society but also brings violence along with it.

The ÖiB's report also mentions a worrisome incident on the last day of September when a Hürriyet journalist, Ahmet Hakan, was beaten by four assailants and hospitalized. Three of his attackers were later revealed to be AK Party members.

According to data presented in the September issue of the ÖiB, three journalists have been denied access to news and information, 24 Internet websites have been blocked, 37 journalists have been detained and 10 members of the press had criminal complaints filed against them, two of whom were referred to court for trial and one of whom was sentenced to imprisonment.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 October 2015, Wednesday