November 8, 2015

Press Council president: Main problem is reluctance to adhere to rule of law

Pınar Türenç, the president of the Press Council, has said the biggest problem facing Turkey is the unwillingness of the government and its supporters to adhere to the rule of law, stating that the media is “failing the test” of protecting free media.

Türenç said in an interview with Today's Zaman that the media itself is not defending its freedom, drawing attention to the reluctance of the Turkish media to speak out against the takeover of Koza İpek Holding.

On Oct. 27, an Ankara court ordered the takeover of Koza İpek Holding, which owns the İpek Media Group, appointing trustees to run its five critical media outlets -- Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, the Bugün daily, the Millet daily and the Kanaltürk radio station.

The outlets, owned by businessman Akın İpek, were confiscated based on an expert report that stated Koza İpek Holding's financial records were implausibly clean.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, Türenç said the firing of journalists after the takeover of Koza İpek Holding by trustees violated Article 30 of the Constitution concerning the press as well as many articles pertaining to individual freedoms.

Referring to the Turkish media's response to the takeover of Koza İpek Holding, Türenç said, “The media is failing this test, unfortunately.” Pointing out that what happened to the companies under the holding, Türenç commented that in the future it can happen to somebody else. “It [the government] has brought it to this stage, step by step, and it will continue [to oppress media freedom],” she said.

“It [the government] does not want any obstacles in front of it,” Türenç added.

Türenç also decried the arrest of Nokta Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Güven and Managing Editor Murat Çapan on Tuesday after the magazine printed its latest issue in which the lead story criticized recent government policies. The government carried out the arrests on the grounds that Güven and Çapan were encouraging people to commit crimes in the country.

Raising the issue of the government's heavy handedness towards the media, Türenç said, “Right now, there is the ‘I did it, so it's done' mentality.”

“This is not something that is seen in democratic countries,” she said. “Incredible things are happening, that is why the country is split down the middle as if with a knife,” Türenç added, referring to the 49.3 percent obtained by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the Nov. 1 snap election.

Predicting that the government-led raids against dissenting media outlets will spread to media outlets like the Zaman and Hürriyet newspapers, Türenç said: “Only one part of the media is trying to stand up [to the oppression]. We [the Press Council] are aware of this and will continue to say it.”

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 8 November 2015, Sunday