November 18, 2015

AK Party gov’t-linked court seizes Turkey’s largest publisher

A controversial court that has been accused of links to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) decided on Wednesday to place the country's largest publisher along with a number of its subsidiaries in receivership, a ruling that comes as part of a series of crackdowns on government critics.

Trustees were appointed to run Kaynak Holding, a group that consists of 23 companies, including the country's largest publishing house. The decision comes less than a month after the seizure of Koza Holding, one of the country's largest publicly listed conglomerates. Wednesday's politically motivated crackdown also came two days after the completion of the G-20 summit hosted by Turkey.

Kaynak's offices were raided by police in September as part of a government-led media crackdown.

Kaynak Holding owns the largest publishing house in Turkey, Kaynak Publishing House, and the NT Mağazaları nationwide bookstore chain among a total of 100 publishing brands and employs more than 8,000 people. A significant share of Kaynak Publishing House's publications is on interfaith and intercultural studies and it is also the publisher of a popular series of exam preparation books. Kaynak Holding's bimonthly Hira Arabic magazine is published in Turkey, Egypt and Morocco and has a circulation of over 90,000. Kaynak's textbook publisher subsidiary Zambak earlier partnered with Cambridge University Press for marketing English textbooks abroad.

The İstanbul 10th Criminal Court of Peace ordered the appointment of trustees to take over the management of the holding in a controversial move. The court has been criticized for abusing its privileged power to engineer a botched legal pretext to confiscate one of Turkey's most successful conglomerates. The courts of peace were designed and established in 2014 by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government to pursue its critics and opponents by orchestrating what many have said are sham trials in politically motivated cases.

On Wednesday morning, trustees escorted by police officers went to the headquarters of the holding in İstanbul's Bağcılar district. There was also a heavy police presence at the holding's bureaus in İstanbul's Üsküdar district and İzmir's Çağlayan district. Four police buses and a water cannon vehicle arrived at the office in Üsküdar while more than 100 police officers escorted trustees to a printing house in Çağlayan on Wednesday.

Market observers criticized the government's seizure of the publishing house on Wednesday, arguing that the AK Party was seeking to boost its partisan propaganda machinery. “This seizure aims to convert a publishing and bookstore chain into [a] mouthpiece, just as they [the government] did when it seized the İpek Media Group,” columnist Abdullah Bozkurt argued on Twitter on Wednesday.

Back on Oct. 27, police teams entered Koza İpek's headquarters in Ankara and the İpek Media Group's offices, which house four media outlets owned by the holding. The authority for the move came from a widely criticized court decision to appoint a board of trustees to take over the management of the holding's 22 companies. Dozens of people were fired, television stations belonging to the group were closed and the sales of the Bugün and Millet dailies significantly decreased following the appointment of the trustees.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 November 2015, Wednesday