November 2, 2015

IPA: Raids on critical media direct threat to Turkish democracy

International Publishers Association (IPA) President Richard Charkin has condemned the unlawful takeover of the İpek media outlets, whose headquarters were stormed by riot police shortly after dawn on Oct. 28, with police handcuffing and injuring several journalists employed by the group, calling on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to end the pressure on critical media.

“Turkey has always been in the forefront when it comes to the number of journalists who are jailed because of their reporters. The Turkish government needs to realize that the intense pressure on the media outlets is worsening the country's already-deteriorated image in the world,” Charkin told Today's Zaman.

The broadcasting of İpek Media Group television stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk was cut on Wednesday afternoon after police teams escorting a board of trustees appointed to take over management of the group entered the television stations' satellite uplink room.

According to the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), there are currently 21 jailed journalists in the country and hundreds of others who spend working hours attending court hearings to testify about what they have written. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries in its latest press freedom index, while Freedom House described the media in Turkey as "not free."

Ola Wallin, head of the Freedom to Publish Committee, also criticized the heavy pressure on Turkish media, saying the illegal takeover of the İpek Media group -- Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, the Bugün daily, the Millet daily and the Kanaltürk radio station -- by the government must be undone as soon as possible.

“Press freedom is a milestone for a democracy. Therefore, the recent attacks launched on free media in Turkey mean direct assault of the democracy in the country. The takeover [of İpek media] needs to end and the press freedom needs to be re-established without any exception,” Wallin told Today's Zaman.

The IPA categorized Turkey in its October 2013-October 2014 report as a country where freedom of speech is restricted, noting the government's inability to guarantee freedom of speech and publication. The report, in which 40 countries are included, named Turkey as a country where freedom of expression is limited, and the government's failure to allow freedom of speech and publication is underlined.

Trustees appointed to İpek media fire critical reporters

The trustees that were appointed by the court to the board of directors of Koza İpek Holding have reportedly been offering jobs to reporters known for their pro-government stances, Today's Zaman has learned.

All the trustees appointed by the court to the boards of directors of the companies that make up Koza İpek Holding are either members of or support the AK Party, even though trustees appointed to companies seized in this manner are required to be independent and objective. One of the trustees appointed to the new board is a former advertising manager for the Sabah daily, a staunchly pro-government newspaper run by the brother of the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, news reports have said.

According to the information Today's Zaman has obtained, police still remain in the building of the İpek Media Group even though it has been more than a week since the takeover. In addition, a water cannon truck and several police cars are reportedly stationed in front of the building.

Published on Today's Zaman, 2 November 2015, Monday