October 28, 2015

As free media slams crackdown on İpek group, pro-gov’t media seeks to legitimize via libel

The government-led takeover of Koza İpek Holding, which owns media outlets that are critical of the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, has been met with strong reactions from the free media as its pro-government counterparts have used libelous comments in an attempt to legitimize the unlawful power grab.

The Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace decided to appoint a board of trustees to oversee the management of Koza İpek Holding on Monday. All the trustees appointed by the court are either members or supporters of the AK Party government, even though trustees appointed to companies seized in this manner are legally required to be independent and objective.

As did many Turkish newspapers, the Zaman daily headlined with the story in its Wednesday edition. Zaman, which is one of the remaining free media outlets in the country, said that Turkey is united against the coup performed by the government against the Turkish free media. The daily reported that the police raided Koza İpek Holding's headquarters in Ankara, using tear gas and force against tens of people waiting in front of the building to show their solidarity with the group.

Another free newspaper, the Medyan daily, reported the takeover with the headline, “Remaining silent against oppressors is also an oppression.” Reiterating that the takeover took place only a few days before Sunday's snap election, the daily said it is completely unlawful, adding that such unlawful practices did not even take place during Turkey's military coup periods of the previous decades.

The Hürriyet daily, another free newspaper in Turkey, released a statement via its website on Tuesday over the takeover of the critical media outlets under the heading, “A worrisome intervention.”

In the statement, Hürriyet said the appointment of trustees to the holding company and the takeover of 22 companies affiliated with the holding will pass into the history as one of the darkest practices in Turkish history -- affecting its democracy, state of law and economy. The statement also highlights that the takeover is clearly against the Turkish Constitution.

Another free newspaper, the Taraf daily, reported -- under the headline, “The government has gone crazy” -- on Wednesday that the AK Party government has reached a new peak in terms of unlawfulness only a few days before the snap election.

Saying that the government is now openly attacking all critical media outlets, Taraf stated that the government deployed riot police to forcibly raid Koza İpek's headquarters and the buildings of the critical media outlets affiliated with the holding, such as the TV channels Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV as well as the Bugün and Millet dailies.

Similarly, the Sözcü daily published a report with the headline "The judiciary has turned to the stick of Tayyip [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]," stating that all the trustees appointed to the Koza İpek Holding-affiliated companies are pro-AK Party.

A report in the Yeni Asya daily on Wednesday stated that the government's takeover of critical media outlets was met with strong criticism in Turkey and abroad. The daily defined the takeover as "an unlawful occupation."

Despite the strong reactions from various independent newspapers, pro-government media outlets such as the Sabah, Takvim, Yeni Şafak and Star dailies published defamatory and libelous reports against Koza İpek Holding's management team, accusing the holding company of using mysterious financial sources to bankroll its operations.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 October 2015, Wednesday