October 30, 2015

Opposition slams turning Bugün and Millet dailies into gov’t mouthpiece

The first editions of the Bugün and Millet dailies published after the government's appointment of trustees to the papers' management gave no space to the views or actions of opposition parties, prompting the opposition to condemn the conversion of the dailies into government mouthpieces.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Friday, Republican People's Party (CHP) Secretary-General Gürsel Tekin said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's very goal of turning the media into his mouthpiece was achieved with the removal of government criticism in the latest editions of Bugün and Millet.

“When we look at the [latest] editions of TV channels and dailies run by the trustees, we see the goal [of the government to silence critical views] has been achieved. … In the first editions of the papers [published] under the management of trustees, there is not a single bit of [views] of opposition parties. When people look at these dailies, they might assume that opposition parties or other parties [except the ruling AK Party] aren't campaigning just three days before the [Nov. 1] election," said Tekin.

In remarks to Today's Zaman on Friday, Grand Unity Party (BBP) Chairman Mustafa Destici said the transformation of Bugün and Millet into pro-government dailies is aimed at manipulating voters' preferences in the election.

“They [the government] want to change people's preferences [on Nov. 1] by muting the voice of all opposition. I say without doubt that they would ban all media outlets that do not carry [government] propaganda if they had the means to do so. If they had emerged as the single-party government from the June 7 elections, they would have done it. If they win the Nov. 1 election, they will do that,” Destici said.

Police raided the headquarters of the media outlets on Wednesday after the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace ruled on Monday for the takeover of the administration of Koza İpek Holding's companies, which include critical media outlets, in a government-backed move. The trustees took over the management of the Bugün and Millet dailies, as well as Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, following a police intervention in which many journalists and protesters were subjected to excessive police force early on Wednesday.

A group of police officers also cut the Kanaltürk broadcast just after the police broke into the holding's headquarters, while another group stormed the production control room of Bugün TV on Wednesday.

The appointed trustees are either members of the AK Party or former employees of pro-government dailies, casting doubts over the impartial guardianship.

Bugün and Millet distributed their first publications on Friday after the trustees took over the management. However, those dailies' Friday editions, prepared under the authority of the trustees, were full of propaganda reports for the AK Party government and President Erdoğan, while there was almost no news report about the CHP and the other parliamentary opposition parties, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), ahead of the Nov. 1 snap election.

Conversion of dailies into gov't bulletin shows takeover was political

During a live interview on a radio channel on Wednesday, interim Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the takeover of the management of Koza İpek Group by trustees was a judicial process and that the government had no role in it.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Friday, Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker dismissed Davutoğlu's remarks, saying that if Koza's takeover was the result of a judicial process, it would not have turned into a government bulletin.

“During debates on whether the takeover of the İpek Media Group was a judicial process or a political decision, government officials said it was a legal process. The [first] editions and publications of papers and TV channels under the management of trustees refute [the government officials]. The decision [to appoint trustees to the group] was a political one,” Türker said.

Koza İpek was put under administrative receivership by the court on suspicion of financing terrorism, on Monday. When the legal grounds asserted by the court for the decision failed to satisfy judicial experts, the company's lawyers disclosed one of the pretexts that led the way to the handover of the firm.

“In countries like Turkey which have volatile economic conditions, it does not suit financial, technical or commercial realities that companies would not have improprieties in their corporate structures where large sums of money are exchanged," the court's decision stated.

Felicity Party (SP) leader Mustafa Kamalak told Today's Zaman that legal conditions required to appoint trustees to Koza were not met, rendering the takeover of the group a political move. Kamalak went on to say that the conversion of the Bugün and Millet dailies to a bulletin of Erdoğan and the government conveys the reason for the appointment of trustees to the İpek Media Group. “The underlying reason for the appointment of trustees is understood [when we look at the first edition of the papers after the takeover],” Kamalak said.

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