June 14, 2016

Criticism grows over move to silence Can Erzincan TV by gov’t controlling 95 pct of media

Criticism grows over an attempt by government – which controls 95 percent of the media organs — to shut down Can Erzincan TV, a station known for its critical stance against the government.

A pro-government 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 move came after 15 TV channels, 5 radio stations, 3 newspapers and a magazine critical of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government were shut down in the last nine months.

Lawyers representing Can Erzincan TV were not able to get any information about the investigation launched against the station and were told that it was confidential. Social media users have posted tweets using the hashtag #Kapatma (Do not shut it down!) to raise their voices against the attempt.

Speaking to Turkish daily Yeni Hayat, a number of press association members and politicians reacted against the government-led attempt to shut down Can Erzincan TV.

Professor Sedat Laçiner, a former university rector, said that critical media has no right to live in Turkey. “Being critical of the government means the same thing as being a criminal in Turkey now. The judiciary considers being dissent as an element of crime. … They either silence the media or regard its actions as crime,” Laçiner added.

Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) President Turgay Olcayto said that the government accuses Gülen movement of forming a “parallel state” but has no evidence to support the claim.

“If it [Can Erzincan TV] is shut down, no media organ will be left for the critical press members to work soon. … This way, they [government figures] destroy people’s freedom of information. How will the members of the society act without learning about the truth? When they shut down TV channels like this one, all that is left is bunch of superstitions,” Olcayto also stated.

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay emphasized that there are no investigations launched against the press workers in Can Erzincan TV. Günay added that shutting a TV channel without any suspicions of crime could not take place in a democratic rule.

Pak Medya-İş Chairman İsmail Topçuoğlu also reacted against the move, saying “Do you want press members to starve to death? They just do the job they know how to do. What do you expect from them? … Most of them haven’t received their payments from the trustees appointed to their former workplaces. What else can they do [to provide for themselves and their families]?”

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, 14 June 2016, Tuesday