October 10, 2015

Only solidarity of TV stations can end censorship

Erhan Başyurt

Censorship is gaining momentum ahead of the general elections. Voters are prevented from accessing correct information. Impartial media through which the opposition can get its messages across to the electorate are blocked.

Following Tivibu, a partly public service corporation, Digiturk, which was secretly sold by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), removed independent channels from its platform.

These two platforms have over 4 million subscribers.

In this case, more than 10 million voters were prevented from getting the facts straight and the opposition was prevented from conveying its messages to them.

Censorship cast a shadow upon fair and impartial elections.

Not only “the right to inform” of 7 channels was violated, people’s constitutionally enshrined “right to be informed” was also usurped.

The acts of censorship by both Tivibu and the TMSF are arbitrary and unlawful.

While decision on the issue is within the scope of authority of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the supreme council is disregarded.

With this approach, the government may silence all the channels except for the “vilifying” pro-government media outlets and force Turkey to watch only their propaganda.

But what can be done to overcome this unlawful pressure and censorship? There are legal avenues that can be pursued by TV channels and citizens. Filing a lawsuit for compensation is an option. Doubtlessly, all these steps will get results.

However, the most effective method that is likely to give results within the shortest time is, as in advanced democracies, professional solidarity against censorship and violations of freedoms.

The media should protect the freedom of expression and broadcasting, which is lifeblood for it and the society.

Those who switch off even a cartoon channel today with the calumny of supporting “terrorism” though there is no court decision can remove other independent and impartial channels tomorrow on flimsy excuses.

What needs to be done by the channels that defend freedoms and democracy is to make a joint decision to leave Digiturk and Tivibu platforms until “CENSORSHIP ENDS.”

Digiturk and Tivibu are not original content producers and broadcasters themselves.
They carry the content created by private channels by spending millions, sometimes even get money from channels, on their platforms and make money.

Digiturk and Tivibu, which engage in unlawful acts, would have to get back to a lawful line after channels take a joint stand. They would never attempt to take arbitrary action against a channel.

When trying to end censorship and pressures on media, no other initiative would be as precious and lasting as the freedom that is to be achieved by the media through its own efforts.

Published on BGNNews, 9 October 2015, Frıday