October 28, 2015

Prominent journalists, press organizations show solidarity with İpek Media Group

Prominent journalists, columnists, editors-in-chiefs of leading media outlets in Turkey and press organizations have raised their concerns over the government-backed court decision to seize the companies of Koza İpek Holding, which include İpek Media Group, and visited its media offices in İstanbul and Ankara to demonstrate solidarity with the journalists in the group.

A prosecutor's demand revealed on Monday that a board of trustees will be appointed to replace the existing board of directors of Koza İpek Holding, which owns media outlets that are critical of the government, following a ruling by the 5th Ankara Criminal Court of Peace. A statement sent to the İstanbul Stock Exchange (İSE) by the holding on Monday evening said that the holding has not been officially notified about the decision yet, adding that the company is following the developments via the Anadolu news agency, which is controlled by the government.

Visiting the İpek Media Group headquarters in İstanbul along with his editorial team, Cumhuriyet daily editor-in-chief and high-profile journalist Can Dündar told the press in front of the media group building on Tuesday that Turkey has been ruled as a dictatorial state for a long time and critical media is under the most pressure.

According to Dündar, the seizure of Koza İpek Holding, including İpek Media Group's media outlets, shows that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is unlawfully silencing media outlets that it dislikes. Dündar also said that the government is blatantly taking steps against critical media in order to convert them to pro-government media outlets. “We will not give up our struggle against government pressure and we will stand together,” he added.

Underlining that it is encouraging to see political party leaders, journalists and people visiting İpek Media Group centers in solidarity with the Koza-İpek Holding employees, Dündar said that the results of Nov. 1 general election will end this unlawful process.

Dündar also called on all critical media outlets to show solidarity with İpek Media Group, as their media outlets could be the next target of the government.

Bilici: Turkey will not give up democracy

During his visit to show solidarity with the İpek Media Group on Tuesday, Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Abdülhamit Bilici said that Turkey has experienced 200 years as a democracy and is not going to give it up.

Emphasizing that the people of Turkey made a claim for democracy in the June 7 election, Bilici said “this [seizure of Koza İpek Holding companies] is a disgrace to Turkish democracy. I don't know how [the government] is going to live with the disgrace,” he said.

Cemal: Seizure of Koza İpek Holding is black day for Turkish judiciary

Veteran journalist and Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) Chairman Hasan Cemal, who also visited the İpek Media Group headquarters on Tuesday to show his support for the group, said that it is a black day for the Turkish judiciary which has been used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to cover up his unlawful practices.

Describing the decision to seize the Koza İpek Holding companies as a dark day in the history of Turkish democracy, Cemal said that the seizure of a group which has media outlets is a crackdown on the freedom of expression and the rule of law.

“We will not leave this country to despots and will teach a lesson to the sultan in the palace [Erdoğan] at the ballot boxes [on Sunday] by making a claim for democracy,” Cemal said.

Ilıcak: Akın İpek didn't bow down to pressure from government and Erdoğan

Speaking during a Bugün TV program on Tuesday, Bugün daily columnist and veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak congratulated Akın İpek, the CEO of Koza İpek Holding, for not giving in to the pressure from the government and letting different voices speak out in the media outlets of the group. Ilıcak underlined that İpek and his group are being targeted by the government and Erdoğan for İpek's stance supporting freedom of expression and the press.

Ilıcak also called on journalists, business circles and the public to show their solidarity with the Koza İpek group because she believes that dissident voices must not be afraid and that it is time to show that they are not afraid of government pressure.

“It is an operation of the dictatorial regime which doesn't want to let dissident voices rise up against its policies, unlawful practices and corruption,” Ilıcak noted. She also said that Turkey has seen many difficult periods in its history and that these difficult days will also pass.

Güven: There is no more security of life or property in Turkey

Cevheri Güven, editor-in-chief of the Nokta weekly, who also visited İpek Media Group headquarters in İstanbul on Tuesday, said that there is no more security of life or property in Turkey these days when Koza İpek Holding companies are seized by the government and young people, such as Dilek Doğan, are killed by police. Doğan was recently shot in her home by police officers during an anti-terror raid and died of her injuries.

According to Güven, whose magazine was also raided by police as part of a government-backed investigation to stop distribution of the weekly for publishing a cartoon of Erdoğan, the government planned to seize critical media outlets before the June 7 election but they give up their plan. “This time they have again realized that their support is declining and so they hope to silence the critical media before the Nov. 1 election as they know they will not be able to do so after the election.”

During the Bugün TV live broadcast on Tuesday, journalist and author Nevval Sevindi said that Turkey's image in the world has been harmed by the AK Party government; the worst in the history of the republic. According to Sevindi, the seizure of İpek Media Group is an act of censorship by the AK Party.

Washington-based journalist İlhan Tanır told Bugün TV on Tuesday that crackdowns on the critical media harm the image of Turkey abroad. Tanır underlined that a business group such as Koza İpek Holding, whose accounts have been confirmed by state authorities can never be seized in a country whose government claims to be democratic. “Turkey is turning into a regime similar to the authoritarian and dictatorial regimes of the Arab world and Central Asia,” he added.

Prominent journalists Ahmet Hakan Coşkun and Cüneyt Özdemir also reacted to the seizure of the İpek Media Group outlets on their official Twitter accounts. Coşkun tweeted on Tuesday that the government's seizure of İpek Media Group is unacceptable and no one should be silent about it.

Özdemir also tweeted a message saying that Turkey has entered a dark period where nothing is real and all kinds of unlawfulness is possible. “All state institutions and values are suspended. Scary!” he tweeted.

TGC President Olcayto: Government doesn't respect freedom of expression and the press

During a visit to the İpek Media Group headquarters in İstanbul on Tuesday, Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) President Turgay Olcayto said that the AK Party government doesn't have respect for the freedom of expression or the press due to its fear of losing governmental control in the general election.

Underlining that the TGC will support the freedom of expression and the press for all, Olcayto said that it also urges the government to end its pressure on the Turkish media.

Olcayto also noted that the TGC recently hosted a joint coalition of some of the world's leading watchdogs, including representatives from the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Article 19, the Index on Censorship and the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), all of whom raised concerns over freedom of the press in Turkey. Such a coalition of watchdogs has never come together for such an extensive mission, Olcayto said.

Calling on the other critical media outlets to be united against pressure from the government, Olcayto said, “the same unlawful seizures may reach other critical media outlets. Sooner or later, they (the AK Party government) will leave their ruling positions, but the free media will always remain,” he added.

The Journalists' Union (GC) President Nazmi Bilgin also condemned the seizure of companies under Koza İpek Holding in a written statement on Tuesday, saying that the appointment of pro-government trustees is a government move to convert critical media into pro-government outlets.

Bilgin stated that the freedom of the press, the rights of the opposition and freedom of expression are sine qua non parts of any democracy.

GYV: Seizure of Koza İpek Holding damages public trust in Sunday's election

The GYV said in a statement on Tuesday that the unlawful decision to seize the companies of Koza İpek Holding has hurt public trust regarding the Nov. 1 general election.

According to the GYV statement, it is difficult to talk of transparency and a just competition on Sunday after the silencing of critical media. “The right to have private property, information and the freedom of thought and expression in Turkey received a nasty blow from the government,” the foundation said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 October 2015, Tuesday