March 1, 2016

İpek Media Group trustees could face legal action over losses, lawyer argues

After Koza İpek Holding had its media companies closed due to financial losses on Monday, the trustees appointed by the government to run the conglomerate could face legal action for failing to maintain the outlets in a manner designed to protect the group's interests, as they were legally required to do, according to a law professor.

Trustees are tasked to obey the law and protect the interests of the companies they are appointed to, criminal law Professor Ersan Şen said in his column for the Kanal 7 news portal dated Oct. 30, 2015. Trustees are required to work as the executive organ of the company, according to Şen. “This management should not include closure, interruptions or a change in operations. Administrative trustees must look out for the company's rights and interests. The trustees are legally responsible for any disruptions,” he said.

The Bugün and Millet dailies along with TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk were closed down on Monday after a four-month period of administration by the trustees who were appointed in a government-backed court decision. The prosecutor in the case identified the reason for the closure as financial losses, which some observers have attributed to the trustees' failure to work for the holding's interests.

On the heels of other similar decisions, an Ankara court put Koza İpek Holding under administrative receivership in late October 2015, accusing the group of supporting the Gülen or Hizmet movement, a faith-based community that the government began to target after the revelation of widespread corruption allegations implicating several Cabinet ministers in 2013.

The average daily circulation of the Bugün newspaper fell from 104,168 in October 2015 to 19,397 in February of this year, while the sales of Millet slid from 46,916 to 10,953 in the same period. Both dailies were known for their critical stance against the government's policies before the trustees turned them into mouthpieces of the government.

Bugün TV and Kanaltürk were dropped from the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) several days after other critical TV and radio stations including Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, S Haber and Radio Cihan were taken off air in November of last year. These media outlets were among the few platforms that hosted figures critical of the government.

Bugün TV, the flagship of the İpek Media Group, was among the top three news channels in Turkey in terms of the number of viewers before the government crackdown.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 March 2016, Tuesday