November 18, 2015

80 journalists fired from Bugün, Kanaltürk in new wave of dismissals

Eighty more journalists working for the Bugün and Kanaltürk TV stations were fired after the channels were dropped by the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) from its infrastructure in a government-orchestrated crackdown on critical media late on Monday.

Bugün TV and Kanaltürk were removed from the platform after a total of 13 TV channels and radio stations, including Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, S Haber and Radio Cihan that are critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) were dropped as of midnight on Saturday in a severe blow to the already deteriorating press freedoms in Turkey.

Following a court decision to seize Koza İpek Holding and appoint pro-government trustees to take over management of its companies on Oct. 26, police entered the İpek Media Group's headquarters in İstanbul on Oct. 28, whereupon they took the Kanaltürk and Bugün TV channels and the Kanaltürk radio station temporarily off the air.

The trustees then took over management of the Bugün and Millet dailies, as well as Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, following the police intervention, during which many journalists and protesters were subjected to excessive police force.

The trustees managing Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, which turned into government mouthpieces following their appointment, decided to end the programs aired on the TV channels following Türksat's controversial move and fired 80 people who worked in the preparation of those programs.

Müge Dağıstanlı and Gülşen Yüksel, who had been the hosts of a magazine program on Kanaltürk weekdays since 2007, announced their dismissal from their joint Twitter account on Tuesday.

"Our adventure at Kanaltürk where we worked with peace and pleasure for eight-and-a-half years ended today. We thank everyone who contributed and watched our program. See you," the women said.

Earlier this month, more than 50 journalists at the İpek Media Group including senior administrators were dismissed by the panel of trustees.

The move attracted widespread criticism from press organizations which vowed to stand up for the rights of the dismissed journalists.

The Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, Shaber and Samanyolu channels have become targets of the government's crackdown because they are seen as affiliated with the Gülen or Hizmet movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses the movement of instigating the massive corruption probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, which implicated ministers in his government and even some of his family members, as part of a plot to overthrow the government despite a denial from the movement.

In a similar vein, in early October, the Digiturk satellite network announced that it had stopped broadcasting the aforementioned TV stations in addition to the Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV channels, 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 that they had removed the stations in question from their platforms on the order of the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office, on the suspicion that the channels were supporting a terrorist organization.

In the meantime, the panel of trustees appointed to the İpek Media Group appointed pro-government Takvim daily's news coordinator Ercan Demir as the new editor-in-chief of the Bugün daily. Bugün's former editor-in-chief, Erhan Başyurt, is among the sacked journalists.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 November 2015, Wednesday