October 29, 2015

’Seizure of İpek Media Group lacks any concrete evidence’

Erhan Başyurt, who was editor-in-chief of the Bugün daily until the İpek Media Group was seized in a government-led operation to silence critical media outlets on Wednesday, has said that the takeover of the İpek Media Group through the assignment of trustees was not based on concrete evidence, but only the suspicions of an expert report.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Thursday regarding the unlawful confiscation of the media group, which includes its media outlets such as Bugün, Başyurt recalled Article 30 of the Constitution which bans any act of seizure of media outlets.

"When we look at what's happened, both a forcible take over and even police violence have taken place against İpek Media Group. The seizure evolved into an insulting, physical attack on journalists during the police crackdown," Başyurt complained.

Regarding the fact that some trustees have close ties with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and that some are even relatives of high-ranking AK Party figures, Başyurt said, "Was it so difficult to appoint impartial trustees instead of partisan ones."

One of the trustees, Nevzat Demiröz, is the head of the AK Party's district branch in Beylikdüzü, İstanbul. Ali Yazılı, another trustee, is a city council member for the Ümraniye municipality run by the AK Party. Another trustee, Lawyer Arif Yalçın, is a member of the the Çankaya district council operated by the AK Party.

Başyurt also criticized the expert report which accused Koza İpek Holding, the parent company of İpek Media Group, of engaging in "obvious" unlawfulness, despite inspections which found that the company is almost "excellent" in terms of paying tax and other matters, adding, "This reveals no concrete evidence was provided for the confiscation ruling, made by an Ankara-based court, but that suspicions articulated by the experts writing the report were the basis for the seizure."

Pointing out that the Koza İpek Holding had a substantial amount of “hot money” in its bank accounts, Başyurt said, "This hot money might be the reason that mobilized the government to take control of the holding. Money is the weakness of this government as the corruption scandal that went public on Dec. 17, 2013 indicated."

He also stressed that the trustees are not acting in line with the law since their assignments have not been published in the Turkish Trade Registry Gazette, making the takeover decision null and void. "No such decision has been published by the gazette. The raid carried out by the police and trustees on the media group is unlawful, brutal and violent," Başyurt said.

Crediting several deputies from opposition parties that stood together with them in the İpek Media Group headquarters, Başyurt went on: "They were here in the building with us to show their solidarity for more than 24 hours. I really appreciate it. I want to thank all for their valuable support and upholding of freedom of press by challenging the political authority's unlawful practices against the media group."

"Some incidents and moments touched me a lot. For example, some of our friends were injured by the police in the attack," Başyurt noted.

Millet daily reporter Mustafa Kılıç was also violently dragged out of the İpek Media Group headquarters by the police when he tried to enter his office on Wednesday morning. Kılıç fell as a result of the assault and injured his hand. He later shared a photo on his personal Twitter account showing him holding his press card spattered with blood.

Concerning the printing of the Bugün daily, Başyurt said, "Unfortunately, only one quarter of the total circulation was printed since the team running the printing facilities refused to print the daily. But 40,000 copies of it were printed and reached the readers."

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