November 7, 2015

Press freedom continues to suffer as AK Party regains power

Press freedom, freedom of expression and the rule of law look set to continue suffering as the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) regains a stranglehold on power in Turkey after a surprise victory in the elections on Sunday, amid developments including 71 journalists being fired from the Bugün daily, which was recently taken over by trustees.

As AK Party supporters rejoiced in the party's victory on Sunday, when it received 49 percent of valid votes, another group of people opposed to the AK Party and actively singled out and persecuted by the government fear that the situation will now get worse.

In a balcony speech Davutoğlu made on the night of the election, he claimed that the AK Party will embrace all and will continue to serve all people without discrimination while denouncing hatred, violence and hostility.

However, just one day after the unofficial results were made public, Nokta magazine Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Güven and Managing Editor Murat Çapan were detained at the İstanbul Police Department after the latest issue of the publication was pulled from the shelves.

On Tuesday Güven and Çapan were arrested for "inciting the public to armed conflict,” thus shattering hope of those who had refused to support the AK Party in this election.

In a written statement released on Tuesday, the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) condemned the AK Party's ongoing attempts to silence critical media outlets, saying the ÇGD is in solidarity with the arrested editors of Nokta.

On Tuesday, two days after the AK Party's resounding win and several declarations from high AK Party officials that the party would not be “revanchist,” 71 journalists were dismissed from the İpek Media Group, which was unlawfully seized in a government-led police operation in late October.

Kamil Maman one of the journalists fired from Bugün posted a series of tweets announcing that the trustees who had taken over the company had prepared a list of those “to be sacked” and that 58 people were on that list. Thirteen journalists and a tea maker working in the Ankara bureau of the İpek Media Group were also fired on Tuesday, raising the number to 71.

"Fifty-eight journalists working for Bugün TV and Kanaltürk were dismissed today by order of the trustees. Did someone say there would not be revenge?" Maman wrote in one of his tweets in reference to Ömer Çelik the AK Party spokesperson who recently declared that the AK Party would not be “revanchist” in its new term.

Journalist fired from Bugün: I will take up legal options available to me

Ömer Önder, one of the journalists arbitrarily fired from Bugün's Ankara office, told Today's Zaman, that he felt he had been hard done by and would be pursuing the legal options available to him.

Pointing out that the trustee who had been appointed to the Bugün Ankara office, Fatin Dağıstanlı, had told them that he wanted to work together, Önder said that after he went out for a few hours and returned, Dağıstanlı told the office, “all of your service contracts have been dissolved.”

"We didn't understand what happened. Everything was fine in the morning and then he [Dağıstanlı] received some orders from İstanbul and we were fired. I was handed this piece of paper," Önder said showing the document that had been signed by his new boss confirming his sacking.

Whistleblower Avni: Samanyolu and Zaman next in line to be taken over

On Thursday evening, Fuat Avni a whistleblower wrote on his Twitter account on Thursday that the government plans on taking over the Zaman daily and Samanyolu Broadcasting Corporation.

Avni purported that the remaining dissenting media outlets will be taken over by the government which will establish subservient media from them.

“He [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] ordered the Samanyolu [Broadcasting] Group and the Zaman newspaper to be taken over. They are in line,” wrote Avni.

“Also by means of trustees he [Erdoğan] is getting ready to take over Kaynak Holdings. His animosity is blinding him.”

Avni's claims come days after a government led takeover of Koza İpek Holdings intensified concerns regarding threats to the freedom of the media and attempts to silence critics of the AK Party government and the president.

Samanyolu TV announced on Thursday it had stopped filming new episodes of some TV shows and soap operas for 15 days, a sign it is taking the threat of a takeover seriously.

Pro-gov't journalist Küçük: People in STV and Zaman should find new jobs

Cem Küçük, a staunchly pro-government journalist known for his threats against media and journalists critical of the government, said on Wednesday that people working in Samanyolu and Zaman should find new jobs for themselves.

“They [Samanyolu and Zaman] will be taken over by trustees soon. I'm declaring it here. I don't know if those guys will show defiance or find a new job. It's their last day,” he said.

Cem Küçük said if media mogul Aydın Doğan fires certain journalists such as Nazlı Ilıcak, Eyüp Can and Bülent Mumay from the Doğan Media Group, the government might then show Doğan mercy.

Doğan, who owns the Doğan Media Group which includes the Hürriyet daily that was recently attacked twice by an angry mob headed by former AK Party deputy Abdürrahim Boynukalın, faced additional threats from Küçük, who said, "If you don't dismiss the journalists that I mention, then you will pay the price for not obeying us [the government].”

CHP leader says Küçük's threats "beginning of Goebbelsian regime"

Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently responded to Küçük's threats against Aydın Doğan saying, “This is a very brazen act, I am going to take this issue to parliament.”

“For a journalist to want his colleagues to be fired is something not seen in the history of the republic. It is proof that a Goebbelsian regime is beginning,” he said in a recent meeting with journalists.

“I would have wanted [Prime Minister] Davutoğlu, who promised to embrace 78 million people, to have responded to [Küçük's] threats” Kılıçdaroğlu added. “Even before the ink [on Davutoğlu's speech] has dried, a pro-government journalist comes out and tries to redesign newspapers.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 7 November 2015, Saturday