October 31, 2015

Media Ethics Council says seizure of media outlets violation of Constitution

The president of Turkey's Media Ethics Council (MEK), Halit Esendir, has harshly criticized the seizure of some media outlets owned by the İpek Media Group, warning that the seizure is virtually an attempt to overturn the constitutional order.

Likening the illegal seizure to practices specific to despotic regimes, the council said in a written statement issued on Friday, “Let it be known that cutting off the broadcast [of a television channel] in a democratic country is the same as trying to topple the constitutional order.”

Early on Wednesday, the police, backed by a controversial court order, ushered a new board of trustees into the İstanbul headquarters of the Bugün and Kanaltürk TV channels, which are part of the İpek Media Group, known for having been critical of the government.

The broadcast of the two television stations was cut off later in the day, and the Bugün and Millet dailies, also part of the media group, came out with a new pro-government editorial line on Friday.

Kazım Güleçyüz, the editor-in-chief of the Yeni Asya daily, has described the seizure as an act of tyranny.

In remarks to Today's Zaman, he said, “The seizure by force is illegal, [and] the dismissal of employees is extremely rude.”

The takeover of Koza İpek Holding, which owns the media group, was based on the opinion of tax experts who found no fault in the holding's account books. The prosecutor argued in his request that it is suspicious for a large holding company to have such clean accounting practices, given that it is almost impossible to achieve such a thing in Turkey.

Noting that the illegal seizure was watched live by the whole world, the statement signed by Esendir said, “What the İpek Media Group was subjected to represents an obvious violation of the Constitution.

“We strongly denounce and protest this practice that is counter to democracy and human rights,” the statement said.

Noting that the seizure was supported by police violence, during which some employees of the media group were subjected to ill-treatment, the statement further said, “The picture was not any better than that [faced by people] during [military] coup periods. Then, journalists were fired in a way that calls to mind a Gestapo regime.”

The Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace on Monday ruled that trustees be appointed to replace the existing boards of directors of Koza İpek Holding and its companies.

The council's statement, which described the illegal takeover as arbitrary, said it is unacceptable that trustees are appointed and journalists are fired this way.

Erhan Başyurt and Tarık Toros, editor-in-chief of the Bugün daily and the Bugün TV general manager, were fired by the newly appointed board of the media group following the seizure, in addition to some other employees.

The İzmir Journalists' Association (İGC) also criticized the seizure of critical media outlets, describing it as illegal in a written statement on Friday.

Signed by Misket Dikmen, president of the association, the statement said, “We strongly denounce all these practices [in the seizure], which were carried out in an ugly and illegal way.”

Suggesting that the seizure indicates the end of the rule of law, the statement said, “The attack against the İpek Media Group is utterly illegal. We are sure that the actors and the pawns in this play will be called to account before justice.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 October 2015, Friday