October 19, 2015

Press associations decry Türksat decision to drop critical TV channels

Press organizations have slammed a move by the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) giving three TV channels notice that their contracts will not be renewed as of next month as part of a government-led crackdown on critical media.

TV channels Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, known for their critical stance against the government, were recently notified by Türksat that their contracts will not be renewed as of November.

The channels were told to remove their platforms from Türksat's infrastructure by the end of the month.

Türksat's move to drop Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk is the latest instance of TV streaming platforms removing channels critical of the government and will mean viewers will not be able to tune in to the channels on any platform with the exception of the channels' own online streaming applications.

Similarly, streaming services Digiturk, Turkcell TV+, Tivibu, Teledünya and Kablo TV recently removed seven TV channels critical of the government, namely Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, S Haber, Irmak TV and Yumurcak TV.

The move has prompted an exodus from many private TV streaming providers, with many users vowing to take the platforms to court for breaching their contracts.

TGC President Olcayto: Gov't becoming more ill-tempered as snap election nears

Türksat has been criticized by press organizations who say it is against universal rules of law for Türksat to remove channels from broadcast without a court order.

Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) President Turgay Olcayto said the government is becoming more “ill-tempered” as the Nov. 1 snap election looms nearer.

Several opinion polls have put votes for the AK Party at levels near the June 7 results, which would mean another devastating blow for Erdoğan and Davutoğlu.

Olcayto noted the decision taken by Türksat is a “huge blow” to people's right to obtain information, adding, “We see such things in totalitarian regimes and not in contemporary democracies.”

He added the main target of the ban on these TV channels would be the workers of the TV stations and the viewers who normally watch the channels.

Media Ethics Council head Esendir: Turkey's image is in ruins

The president of the Media Ethics Council (MEK), Halit Esendir, called Türksat's move a “disgrace for Turkey,” underlining that those who had made these decisions will one day “answer to the law.”

“Turkey's image is in ruins,” he said in a quote to Today's Zaman.

Stating that the law and the Constitution in Turkey have been shelved, Esendir added Turkey is being run by a “one-man” regime and that decisions are being taken on the whim of “one person,” making indirect references to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“The press law included, nothing [no laws] is being implemented. There is only the effort to place pressure especially on the opposition media in the run-up to the election,” he said.

BBP deputy chair: Silencing dissenters will turn country into ‘Gaddafi's Libya'

Grand Unity Party (BBP) Deputy Chairman Remzi Çayır told Today's Zaman that if every dissenting voice is silenced, the country will turn into “[Muammar] Gaddafi's Libya.”

Pointing out everyone must stand up to the acts of censorship by the AK Party, Çayır said, “If the government tries to silence all opposition without any justification, the country will turn into Uganda, into Gaddafi's Libya.”

If the Türksat decision is enforced, Çayır added, it will be a “manifestation of a mindset of the Middle Ages.”

ÇGD chairman: People's right to obtain information being taken away

Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) Chairman Ahmet Abakay told Today's Zaman the presidential palace and the AK Party are applying “great pressure” on the media.

“With these decisions [such as that of Türksat], people's right to obtain information is being taken away,” he said.

“It's like telling bakeries not to give people bread or telling [shops] not to sell people water,” added Abakay. “Those making these decisions will one day answer to the law.”

‘Turkey behind many African countries in terms of freedom of press'

Journalists Union (GC) President Nazmi Bilgin said on Monday Turkey is behind many African countries in terms of freedom of the press.

Speaking at a conference aimed at instilling the importance of a free press to youths, Bilgin said 85 journalists were detained in 2015. He said democracy itself is under threat along with freedom of the press.

According to figures provided by Bilgin, 16 female and 69 male journalists were detained in 2015 while 123 journalists had lawsuits filed against them. Four journalists were also sentenced to prison, according to Bilgin.

Press Council: Removal of TV channels against democratic rules

The Press Council released a press statement on Sunday deeming the removal of TV channels that are not in line with the government's views from Türksat and other service providers “against democratic rules.”

“We are curious as to where the censorship attempts, which are increasing day by day, step by step, will take us,” the statement read.

The statement also called for an end to the censorship, which it said is against “universal legal principles,” and for the public to safeguard its right to information.

Pınar Türenç, president of the Press Council, also said recently in one of the council's regional meetings in İzmir that the ban on the seven TV channels is “unacceptable.” “The Press Council will continue its determined struggle to end the ever-increasing pressure on our profession,” she said.

The recent move to exclude Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk comes at a time when the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is increasing pressure on television streaming platforms to drop channels critical of the administration.

The members of Türksat's board of directors include President Erdoğan's top adviser Mustafa Varank, Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Mehmet Hamdi Yıldırım and Prime Ministry adviser Maksut Serim.

The AK Party's heavy-handed tactics against the free and independent media reached their peak after two major graft investigations that implicated individuals from Erdoğan's inner circle were broadcast on certain TV channels and written about in newspapers.

The probes revealed the largest corruption and bribery network in the history of the Turkish Republic and led to the resignation of four ministers in then-Prime Minister Erdoğan's Cabinet, with charges ranging from corruption and bribery to transferring gold to Iran in order to undermine a US-led sanction.

After the June 7 general election, in which it won 40 percent of the vote and lost the overall majority it had enjoyed for the last 13 years, the interim AK Party government, led by acting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, is headed for a snap election.

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 October 2015, Monday