Turkey: Media Repression reaches Crisis Point

Turkey: Media Repression reaches Crisis Point - Protection

A police helicopter and birds hover overhead as Islamists demonstrate in front of the Beyiazid mosque against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey.

In the run-up to this weekend’s election, the media crackdown in Turkey reached its apex this week when, at 4.30 am on Wednesday, police raided the offices of BugunTV and KanalTurk, two major independent television stations, owned by Koza Ipek, a pro-opposition media group.

Video footage of the raid shows police violently forcing their way into the building and using tear gas against protesters outside. Tarik Toros, General Manager of BugunTV, claimed live on the air that police failed to show a warrant or court order prior to the raid.  One reporter, Kamil Maman, was detained by police. Broadcasting by both channels was cut off in the afternoon.

Prior to the raid, a Turkish court had ordered the seizure of Koza Ipek. According to reports, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor said the seizure was linked to an ongoing investigation of Koza-Ipek on suspicion of ‘terrorist propaganda’ and ‘financing terrorism’. The charges relate to the conglomerate’s alleged links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose movement, the ‘Hizmet Movement’, has been declared a terrorist organisation by the Turkish state.

‘Terrorism’ and ‘financing terrorism’ in Turkish law are broadly defined, and the Hizmet movement has been declared a terrorist organization, despite a total lack of evidence of acts of violence. Further to the court order, the owner of Koza Ipek has been removed from his position, and a board of trustees appointed to take over administration of the conglomerate, which includes two newspapers and two television stations, all of which  have been highly critical of AKP.

Independent newspapers have raised concerns that the board is not independent from the AKP party. On Thursday 29 October 2015, concerns about the political neutrality of the board were heightened following the online release of video footage showing the dismissal of a number of Bugun Daily employees, including the editor-in-chief, during an editorial meeting.

ARTICLE 19 are deeply concerned by this crackdown on the Turkish media in the run-up to the national Election.