October 8, 2015

TV channels removals violate law

Günal Kurşun

Digital satellite platform Digitürk on Thursday joined two other media platforms that previously banned critical media in a government-backed move to stop broadcasting TV channels Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, Yumurcak TV, Mehtap TV, Irmak TV, Shaber and Samanyolu. These TV channels are known for their critical stance against the government. TV service provider Turkcell TV and online streaming service Tivibu had previously banned the same seven channels. The legal reasoning declared by the three platforms is an order from the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office.

Everyone except those who lack any IQ view this as an attempt to silence free and independent media. Just before the election scheduled for Nov. 1, the removal of the stations can only be considered as an attempt to silence free media. As far as I understand, the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office is considering the issue as preventing the financing of “terrorism.” Declaring the opposition as a “terrorist” organization was the easiest way to label and stigmatize the opponent and after declaring the Hizmet movement as a “terrorist” organization, in one day all groups related to Hizmet became aiders or abettors of this so-called “terrorism.”

In my opinion, the prosecutor followed a pattern that legitimizes criminalizing dissent. According to penal procedures, public prosecutors are not allowed to order TV platforms to remove stations. All these seven TV stations, including a children's cartoon channel, are legally established in Turkey in accordance with TV broadcasting laws. If there is a violation of the law, the legal options should be fining them for their illegal broadcasts and stopping the broadcast at the ultimate level. All seven stations are currently broadcasting without any violations. This order by the prosecutor has no logic, but its motivation is putting a limitation on watching critical TV stations. It is understood that the prosecutor planned this move 20 days before the election, assuming that it would play a key role in preventing people from voting for opposition parties and preventing voters who have not yet decided from being affected.

Freedom of expression includes the freedom to broadcast in line with the law. This move is contrary to both Turkish laws and the European Convention of human rights (ECHR). According to the ECHR, communication is considered a human right and having information via TV is a form of communication. An arbitrary ban on communication is contrary to the convention and at the same time it is considered a crime under Article 124 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on the “prevention of communication.”

The next step might be imprisoning opposition leaders, closing down human rights associations, seizing all tools of opposition or declaring a curfew, but in any case, all these attempts will have an effect on Nov. 1. No oppression in history has ever had a positive effect. The atmosphere created by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has brought the country back to the 1980 coup. The only solution against is democracy and the rule of law without hesitation. I believe we will see brighter skies as of Nov. 2.

Published on Today's Zaman, 8 October 2015, Thursday