November 9, 2015

Union heads condemn dismissal of 82 İpek Media journalists

Workers' unions have decried the recent firing of 82 journalists from the Bugün and Millet dailies after the takeover of Koza İpek Holding by trustees, with many labeling the dismissals as unlawful and pointing out that those sanctioning unlawful dismissals will face penalties.

On Oct. 26 an Ankara judge 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 opinion that that their financial records were implausibly clean. After the takeover, a total of 82 journalists were fired from their jobs.

Kani Beko, the head of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), has condemned the dismissal of the journalists, saying: “Our fellow workers [who were fired] have families; they have children [to feed]. You [trustees] cannot just throw them out onto the street saying, ‘We've canceled your employment contracts."

Beko continued; “If you [government] try to suppress the media by anti-democratic means, this cannot be a free, democratic country.”

“These occurrences take place in countries [run by] dictators,” Beko said, adding, “If we don't want Turkey to be ruled by dictators, then journalists must be allowed to express their thoughts as they wish.”

“Anyone trying to suppress or close down a media outlet, which are under the protection of press laws, will be in violation of the Constitution,” Beko stated.

Pointing out that he personally does not know why the companies of Koza İpek Holding were handed into the care of trustees, Koncuk said the people have a right to know why the company has been taken over and what excuse is given for the dismissal of its employees.

“The government wants to silence the media that poses a threat to it,” he said, adding that through the takeover of Koza İpek Holding, a message was sent to other companies to toe the line or face the same consequences.

Koncuk also stated that the government's message has been received by some newspapers, referring to the softened tone that the Hürriyet daily has adopted when reporting on government-related issues since the election on Nov. 1 -- which the saw the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) regain a single-party majority in Parliament.

Pak Media head: Legal processes have been initiated against trustees

Pak Media Labor Union (Pak Medya-İş) President İsmail Topçuoğlu said legal processes have been launched and that they have applied for compensation for the journalists who have been fired.

Topçuoğlu added that the dismissed journalists have begun initiating individual lawsuits against the trustees on charges of unlawful termination.

“As the union of the journalists in question, we will be monitoring the outcome of the lawsuits put forward by the journalists,” Topçuoğlu said. Stating that the trustees have no right to redesign the workforce of the company they take into their care, he said that petitions have been filed with the public prosecutor's office.

“They [trustees] have to answer for the arbitrary dismissal of journalists,” Topçuoğlu stated.

Union of Active Educators: Trustees cannot interfere with structure of company

The head of the Union of Active Educators, Osman Bahçe, said the appointment of trustees itself is disputable, let alone the decisions that they have made.

Bahçe explained that “in the end, the trustees appointed to a company cannot interfere with the structure of the company. They are only supposed to protect the rights [of the company].”

“It is certain that the firing of the [82] journalists carries a threat to other newspapers,” Bahçe said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 November 2015, Monday