December 20, 2015

Samanyolu airs 9-hour special program on arrested journalists

Samanyolu Haber TV aired a nine-hour special program on Saturday during which colleagues and family members of journalists who have been arrested talked about their experiences, declining press freedom in the country and their sadness in the absence of their loved ones.

The program was also broadcast by Burç FM, Radyo Mehtap and Samanyolu Haber Radyo, which all operate under the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group.

Veteran journalists such as Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan and Mümtaz'er Türköne discussed the growing restrictions on the freedom of the press in the country and the cases of 33 jailed journalists whose number includes Samanyolu Broadcasting Group President Hidayet Karaca, Cumhuriyet daily Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and its Ankara representative Erdem Gül, Nokta magazine editors Cevheri Güven and Murat Çapan and investigative journalist Mehmet Baransu.

Samanyolu's Karaca was arrested in a government-backed operation last December based on a TV series aired several years ago by Samanyolu.

Ilıcak said she was one of the journalists who was subjected to the most tyranny during the days of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, yet similar acts of tyranny are being perpetrated on even ordinary people today.

Özgür Düşünce daily Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Yılmaz said on the program there has always been a conflict between the government and critical media, but the pressure on the free media has intensified over the past several years.

"Thirty-three journalists are in jail. Who will voice the views of the public if the press is not free?" asked Yılmaz.

Zaman daily Deputy Editor-in-Chief Bülent Korucu criticized the removal of dozens of TV stations and radio stations of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group from the infrastructure of the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) in a politically motivated move last month.

"This is an operation to silence the public, not [just] journalists. Putting everything else aside, a children's TV channel has been closed down. There is no explanation for this," said Korucu, referring to the removal of Yumurcak TV, a popular children's channel, from Türksat when the Samanyolu stations were removed.

Although Samanyolu group channels were eliminated from Türksat, the group's channels continue their broadcasts via the Internet and Hot Bird satellite, though they can now only reach a small number of people.

The broadcast of these TV stations, known for their critical stance toward the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, was halted by Türksat because of a “legal obligation” to follow an order from a prosecutor's office that was based on the suspicion that the channels support a terrorist organization.

Media have reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into media outlets inspired by the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet, against which the AK Party government launched a war following the publication of details of a graft scandal in December 2013. The government accuses the movement of masterminding the probe; however, the movement strongly denies the allegation.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 20 December 2015, Sunday