October 13, 2015

Press organizations slam Türksat TV platforms after removal of 7 TV channels

Press organizations have lambasted the decision by Teledünya and Kablo TV, digital satellite platforms using Turkish Satellite Communications Company's (Türksat) infrastructure, to halt on Monday the broadcast of TV channels known for their critical stance towards the government, saying it is a move that impinges on people's right to access information.

Türksat platforms Teledünya and Kablo TV removed the Bugün, Kanaltürk, Shaber and Samanyolu, Mehtap, Irmak and Yumurcak TV channels due to a decision by their administrative board.

In a written statement to Today's Zaman on Tuesday, Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) Secretary-General Sibel Güneş said the government is increasing its pressure on critical media outlets as the Nov. 1 general election approaches.

According to Güneş, Turkey has become a country where labeling journalism as terrorism and journalists as terrorists has become commonplace. Underlining that the government's treatment of critical media cannot be associated with democracy, Güneş also noted those journalists on trial for their work must be released pending trial. “Arresting journalists is a form of pressure on people's right to information and I hope the crackdown on the media will end after the Nov. 1 election” she added.

The Press Council also said in a statement to Today's Zaman on Tuesday the ban on critical TV channels by Teledünya and Kablo TV demonstrates how censorship in Turkey is spreading. The statement noted such bans on critical media outlets violates freedom of expression and prevents people from accessing information as part of their fundamental rights.

“We are deeply concerned about the bans on critical voices and are worried about how far these bans may go. Therefore, the Press Council calls on the authorities to take the necessary actions to stop bans and let people watch the TV channels they wish to,” the statement said.

Last week Digiturk announced it had stopped broadcasting certain TV stations following a request from a prosecutor.

Turkcell TV+, an online TV streaming service from Internet provider Superonline, and Tivibu, another service provided by TTNet, previously announced they too had removed the stations in question from their platforms by the order of the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office on the suspicion that the channels were supporting a terrorist organization.

Even children's channel Yumurcak TV was removed, prompting anger from some users, who were perplexed at the idea that a children's TV station could support terrorism.

In April, Ankara Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun sent a document to the Türksat Directorate General asking it to prevent a state-owned satellite connection from being used by some media outlets that are critical of the government. The media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into claims about media outlets inspired by the Gülen movement.

The Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, Shaber and Samanyolu channels have become targets of the government's crackdown for being seen as affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames the movement for instigating the massive corruption probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, which involved ministers in his government and even some of his family members.

MEK: Türksat imposes censorship on critical media

Media Ethics Council (MEK) President Halit Esendir, in a written message on Tuesday, told Today's Zaman TV platforms under Türksat and others that banned the TV channels are imposing censorship on the media.

Underlining that Turkey is going through extraordinary times, Esendir said the government aims to prevent people from reaching different and critical views thorough unlawful bans on critical media. “It is a constitutional crime and against laws to ban TV stations without a court ruling on the issue,” he said.

According to Esendir, each step taken by the government to silence critical voices is tarnishing Turkey's image internationally. Esendir believes such a ban on critical media is an action by the government leading towards having only one type of media, namely pro-government media. He called on Ankara to immediately to stop such unlawful actions against the media.

Nihat Altay, the chair of the Consumer Legal Remedies Association and member of the Federation of Consumers Unions (TBF), told the Cihan news agency on Tuesday the TV platform must abide by the contract it signed with its customers. According to Altay, it is a violation of the contract if the platform removes without any restrictive injunction from a court any TV station from the list of channels it promised to provide. “Consumers may file a complaint with arbitration boards and take legal actions in consumer courts,” he said.

YSK rejects application by Samanyolu, MHP to punish Digitürk

Meanwhile, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on Monday rejected an application by the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to penalize the decision by Digitürk to ban the seven TV channels. The YSK said in a statement on Monday that Digitürk's decision is not related to the Nov. 1 election.

In a petition to the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on Tuesday, Turkish Bar Association (TBB) Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu asked RTÜK to end the bans of the critical media stations by several TV platforms. Feyzioğlu said the document sent by prosecutor Coşkun to TV platforms has no basis in local laws and is an arbitrary move. “RTÜK has the duty to end this arbitrary ban,” he said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 October 2015, Tuesday