October 26, 2015

IAJ president: I’m shocked by the dropping of TV channels

The president of the International Association of Judges (IAJ), Gerhard Reissner, has said that he is shocked to hear that seven TV channels have been dropped from TV streaming platforms due to an order given by the prosecutor's office in Turkey, saying that such practices are not in accordance with democratic values.

Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, known for their critical stance against the government, were recently notified by the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) that their contracts would not be renewed as of November. The channels were told to remove their platforms from Türksat's infrastructure by the end of the month.

Türksat's move to drop Irmak TV, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk is the latest instance of TV streaming platforms removing channels critical of the government and means that viewers will not be able to tune in to the channels on any platform, with the exception of the channels' own online streaming applications. Similarly, Digiturk, Turkcell TV+, Tivibu, Teledünya and Kablo TV removed seven TV channels critical of the government, namely Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, S Haber, Irmak TV and Yumurcak TV from their services, in response to an order from the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on the suspicion that they support a terrorist organization. Those removed TV channels are close to the faith-based Gülen movement, against which the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been conducting a large-scale smear campaign for almost two years.

Speaking to the Bugün daily, Reissner said, “No court order is able to remove a TV channel from any streaming platform, in any normal country.” Reissner has also called for the affected channels to fight the order, which “clearly attempts to limit freedom of expression.”

Emphasizing that the impartiality of the judicial system is being jeopardized in Turkey, Reissner said the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) acts in line with the political administration in Turkey and that the government uses some judicial institutions against people or institutions that do not act in line with it. “There have been clear examples of this recently,” said Reissner. Furthermore, he has called on the Turkish government to stop trying to wield influence over the judiciary and for the HSYK to take immediate steps to ensure its impartiality.

The HSYK is being criticized by many for acting under the influence of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which has been conducting a smear campaign against the Gülen movement -- inspired by the ideas of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- since a major corruption scandal went public on Dec. 17, 2013 and implicated high-ranking members of the AK Party. The government accuses the movement of being behind the corruption scandal.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 October 2015, Monday