October 28, 2015

All trustees appointed to Koza İpek Holding are pro-AK Party

All the trustees appointed by an Ankara court on Monday to the boards of directors of the companies that make up Koza İpek Holding are either members of or support the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), even though trustees appointed to companies seized in this manner are required to be independent and objective.

In the latest example of what many have said is a politically motivated attack on the private sector and independent media, the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace ordered the seizure of Koza İpek Holding, which owns media outlets that are critical of the government.

“Courts of peace” are a new feature of the Turkish justice system, established by the government when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was prime minister as specially authorized courts with extraordinary powers that contradict the universal rule of law.

One of the recently appointed trustees is lawyer Arif Yalçın, who is a member of the Çankaya district council representing the AK Party. Yalçın will be paid a salary of TL 50,000 as a trustee. Yalçın has posted a number of tweets in which he openly revealed his support for the AK Party. In one tweet, Yalçın wrote: “May God help the government of [acting Prime Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu, which has received a vote of confidence. I hope he will be successful.”

Another trustee is Nevzat Demiröz, who is the head of the AK Party's district branch in the Beylikdüzü district of İstanbul. Ali Yazılı, another trustee, is a city council member for Ümraniye municipality representing the AK Party.

Hüdai Bal is another of the trustees appointed by Judge Yunus Süer from the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace. Bal was previously the advertising and finance director of the pro-AK Party Turkuaz Media Group, which includes the Sabah daily, widely considered the government's mouthpiece, and the ATV television station. He was later appointed the manager of the Show TV channel after its ownership was transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in 2013.

Another trustee is Ümit Önal, previously the advertising group chairman of the Turkuaz Media Group. Önal was also appointed to Show TV after the TMSF's seizure of the channel. Following an eight-month investigation, the İstanbul 4th Administrative Court ruled to cancel the sale of the Show TV on May 14 of last year. After the decision, both Önal and Bal had to leave their positions.

Önal, who is currently Sabah's advertising manager, has been appointed as a trustee of the Yaşam Television and Broadcast Services -- an incorporated company that operates under Koza İpek Holding and includes the Kanaltürk TV channel -- even though he was implicated in the infamous “Hello Fatih” media censorship scandal in 2014. His name was mentioned in a voice recording of a phone call between Mehmet Fatih Saraç -- a former executive at the Habertürk daily and Habertürk TV -- and then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that was leaked on the Internet early in February of last year.

In the recording, Erdoğan instructed Saraç to censor broadcasts of opposition leaders. Saraç has since been dubbed "Alo Fatih" (Hello Fatih) in a reference to the words Erdoğan used when calling him in the leaked conversation. In another leaked conversation that took place between Saraç and Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan on Dec. 4, 2012, Bilal Erdoğan said that Önal was responsible for coordinating advertisements placed in pro-government newspapers.

Other trustees include: Yasin Kalem, who previously worked as an adviser at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources; Ali Rıza Esmen, the assistant general manager of the Turkish petrochemicals producer Petkim; Cavit Demiral, an assistant professor working at the Kırıkkale University's faculty of law who was once an AK Party candidate deputy; Kemal Yıldır, a former adviser of Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız; Hayrullah Dağistan, the general director of Turkey's Mining Exploration Institute (MTA) and an AK party council member representing the Ümraniye Municipality in İstanbul; and Fatih İçin, who works as a manager at the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality representing the AK Party.

Turkuvaz Media Group is part of the “pool media” -- a term used for what many commentators have alleged is a group of media outlets purchased by a number of pro-AK Party businessmen from a pool of funds upon the instructions of Erdoğan in return for privileged treatment in public tenders. These allegations are based on a number of voice recordings purportedly featuring Erdoğan and businessmen involved in the scheme. Anonymous Twitter accounts uploaded the recordings onto social media platforms, claiming that they were legally obtained during surveillance in corruption investigations that were since crippled by mass purges of prosecutors and police officers.

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