October 1, 2015

The country is their property

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

All of a sudden and without any explanation, the online TV streaming service Tivibu removed Samanyolu TV and Bugün TV from its schedules. As you may easily guess, these TV channels are associated with the Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement.

These TV channels have been removed from Tivibu simply because they criticize the current government.

If you look at it from a legal perspective, there are too many things to say. Since this is a publically funded service, provided by TTNet, what it has done is called “service defect.”

Since it is a politically motivated decision, it needs to be annulled by the administrative court.

I can tell you many other things about what all this means under human rights laws.

Since this is an open attack on media freedom, it violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which stipulates freedom of expression.

Since this action breaches these TV channels' property rights and their freedom to engage in business, it certainly violates Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR.

But saying all this means practically nothing in modern Turkey, because this kind of arbitrary intervention in the business world, abusing public services and abusing authority have now become routine.

Bank Asya was seized, almost for nothing. Just recently, Turkey's biggest companies were raided and accused of having links to terrorist groups.

As you can see, the legal system is at the government's service and punishes anyone who somehow opposes this government. Do not think that arbitrariness is limited to only punishing “foes” and rewarding “friends.”

If you criticize this government, your newspaper is not only at risk of being investigated by tax inspectors but you can also find yourselves removed from public service.

It is hard to believe but critical newspapers, like the one you are reading now, are even excluded by companies used by the public such as Turkish Airlines, which serves millions of people. When you enter Turkish Airlines lounges, or if you are on an international flight, you cannot find many critical newspapers, but pro-government newspapers are available in abundance.

Likewise, you cannot hear any critical voices on state-run TRT channels, which are of course funded by taxpayers of all political views.

If you collect all of these details together, you come to the following conclusion: Turkey is not only at risk of being run by a totalitarian regime but it is already ruled by leaders who view all public services, natural resources and business transactions as their personal property.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 October 2015, Thursday