October 29, 2015

CHP to Davutoğlu: Who ordered removal of critical media from Türksat

Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu has asked Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who gave the order for the removal of channels critical of the government, namely Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, from the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat).

Reports in the Turkish media stated earlier in October that the board of directors at Türksat sent a message to Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, giving them until the end of the month to remove their platforms from its infrastructure and warning the channels that their subscriptions will not be renewed as of November.

The move, considered by many as the silencing of free and independent media by the government, has been heavily criticized by opposition deputies and media freedom advocates.

In his questionnaire, Tanrıkulu asked, “Is the removal of Kanaltürk and Bugün TV from the Türksat satellite not a blow to freedom of the media and expression [in Turkey]?”

Tanrıkulu also asked what the legal basis for the removal of the two channels is.

He continued, “Is the removal of Kanaltürk and Bugün TV from the Türksat satellite a step towards the desire of the government to monopolize the media in Turkey?”

Recently emerged video footage that was taken before a live interview with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in February revealed that Mustafa Varank, one of Erdoğan's advisers and a Türksat board member, urged a minister at the time to drop critical TV stations from the platform.

The backstage footage, published by the Cumhuriyet daily on Saturday, shows Varank chatting with journalists Hilal Kaplan, Akif Beki, Saadet Oruç and Mahmut Övür before their interview with Erdoğan that was aired by the state-run broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) on Feb. 2.

He is heard telling the journalists that he had told then-Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lütfi Elvan that TV stations close to the Gülen movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, should be dropped from Türksat, but that Elvan had refused to do so fearing public pressure.

Inquiring about the video footage, Tanrıkulu wrote in the questionnaire, “Is the video footage of Feb. 2, 2015 not evidence that the removal of Kanaltürk and Bugün TV from the Türksat satellite is a political move?”

Bugün TV and Kanaltürk were forced to end their broadcasts on Wednesday after trustees appointed by a controversial court were accompanied by riot police to the headquarters of Koza İpek Holding, the parent company of both channels.

The takeover of Koza İpek Holding's 22 companies, including critical TV stations Bugün TV, Kanaltürk and two newspapers, comes just days before Turkey is set to have a snap parliamentary election on Nov. 1.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday