June 13, 2016

Reactions pour in against attempt to drop Can Erzincan TV from Türksat

A number of politicians and journalists have spoken out against a government-backed attempt to shut down Can Erzincan TV, which is known for its critical stance against the government.

The pro-government Sabah daily reported on Sunday that İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz has sent a notice to Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) recommending the suspension of Can Erzincan TV’s broadcasting on the grounds that its programs serve the purposes of Gülen movement.

The notice also reportedly claimed that Can Erzincan broadcasted programs with the aim of making perception operations and discrediting constitutional institutions and establishments.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal said that the Constitution says “the press is free, and shall not be censored” on Article 28.

“This order [of the prosecutor] violates Articles 25, 26, 28 and 30. Request of dropping Can Erzincan from Türksat is a death sentence. They [government officials] are shutting down a TV channel with political reasons and without legal ones, by creating artificial justifications. They aim at silencing opposing voices,” Tanal added.

Journalist Tayfun Talipoğlu also said the press freedom is being destroyed. “We may have different political views of ideologies, but we all have to support freedom of press,” Talipoğlu said.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen, who also has a journalism background, said that Turkey ranks among the worst 5 of 150 countries in press freedom index, adding that practices that lead to this must stop immediately.

CHP İzmir deputy Atila Sertel said: “True colors of this structure, which cannot tolerate any free thought and attack anyone who voices the truth, are revealed. I want them to know that they cannot accomplish any results by attempts at oppression and silencing.”

Former Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member Ali Öztunç reminded that only a court can decide whether a TV channel should be dropped from Türksat, not any prosecutor’s office.

Showing support by posting messages about Can Erzincan TV on Twitter, journalist Hasan Cemal said: “Don’t let them shut down Can Erzincan TV, don’t let freedom of expression receive another blow.”

Columnist Levent Gültekin also reacted on the issue on Twitter, saying, “They got hold of Turkey as a whole and yet they are still afraid of one little TV channel. This is the cowardice masked behind bullying.”

Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched investigation into nine TV channels – including Can Erzincan — and 2 newspapers in latest move to silence critical media last week.

As part of government’s witch hunt against the Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement — a civil society initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s teachings promoting worldwide interfaith dialogue, peace and tolerance — a large number of schools, educational institutions and companies, due to their alleged links with the Gülen movement, have been seized as part of government-orchestrated investigations following a major graft scandal in December 2013 that revealed the government’s involvement in corruption.

In October of last year, Turkey witnessed appointment of a panel of trustees to the İpek Koza Holding in a government-backed move, which apparently aimed to intimidate independent journalists and attracted widespread negative reaction.

The trustees took over the management of the Bugün and Millet dailies and the channels Bugün TV and Kanaltürk early on Oct. 28 when police forcibly entered the broadcasting headquarters of the media group, during which journalists and protesters claimed they were subjected to police brutality. The trustees immediately fired dozens of journalists from the group and turned the news outlets, which used to have a critical stance, into government mouthpieces. The outlets were later shut down.

Trustees also took over the management of Feza Publishing, which includes the Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies earlier in March. Zaman was Turkey’s best-selling daily before the appointment of the trustees selling 600,000 copies daily.

Also in December, Turkey saw the screens of 14 TV channels go black, as well as the silencing of several radio channels that operate under the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group because they were removed from the state-owned Türksat infrastructure.

Türksat dropped these media outlets despite having signed an agreement with Samanyolu Broadcasting Group that necessitated service being provided until 2024. The move left hundreds of journalists jobless.

Published on Turkish Minute, 13 June 2016, Monday