Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tightened the pressure on the media: a few days before parliamentary elections, the Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons to attack the main office of the media group Koza-Ipek, critical of the government.
The media group consists of Turkish television channels KanalTurk and Bugun TV as well as newspapers Millet and Bugun, which came out with black front pages on Tuesday as a sign of protest against the increasing pressure on the media.
The police broke into the headquarters of media group Koza-Ipek in Istanbul with chainsaws and used tear gas and water cannons against the people defending the territory. The channel Bugun TV recorded the event while doing the online broadcast on police’s penetration and the termination of broadcasting.
This applies to the media, opposition parties and businessmen, as well as those who do not obey. "
The official version for invading the channel is different, of course. On October 26, the court in Ankara handed the control over Koza İpek Group to the state-appointed trustees. The decision was argued by the need "to prevent crime and protect the evidence."
Newspaper Bugün was going to release an edition called "Trustees’ extortion” about the impending seizure of the media, but the police stopped the printing process.
The video, filmed by Today's Zaman, captured the penetration of the police and authorized individuals to the newspaper’s office as well as the dismissal of the editor-in-chief, the coordinator of publications, and the managing editor.
When the police ordered to arrest the chief editor, the editorial staff said that the law enforcers would have to arrest them all, writes The Independent.
Ankara Court considers media group linked to the coup scenario of the so-called "Terrorist Organization of Fethullah Gülen." The media holding is suspected in financing terrorism from the beginning of September, but still, there has been no evidence presented to support this version.
The group is associated with residing in the US Islamic spiritual leader Fethullah Gülen and the leader of the popular Turkish socio-cultural movement Khizmat. Gülen is the main critic and the enemy of the current president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Our company has been passing the audit during the last two years, and no one has found anything," says Bilal Kalizir, the lawyer of Koza Ipek, in the commentary for Financial Times.
And this is not only the opinion of Human Rights Watch. "Police raid to Kanaltürk and Bugün TV is a clear violation of freedom of media," says Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. "The authorities must ensure the free work of the media in a safe environment, especially during the election period."
"The operation to capture the Turkish independent media reached a new level which is now even more alarming than before,” says the Financial Times’ Yavuz Baydar, a partner of MYMEDIA and co-founder of the independent Turkish media organization P24." After the seizure of Ipek, there were left almost no media - except for Dogan – that could provide the readers with independent information; the authorities are trying to gain full control over the Turkish media. "
The Turkish media which are critical toward the government have been under pressure for a long time; they are charged with large tax penalties, and the offices and the journalists are being attacked. Power seizure of media group took place against the background of the two recent attacks on the central office of Hürriyet Dailyand physical attack on the columnist Ahmet Hakan Coşkun near his home in Istanbul in early October.
The tightening pressure on the media before the elections in Turkey caused a worldwide alert. In October, a coalition of the world key media watchers and international organizations for the protection of the rights of journalists gathered due to an emergency mission to support the Turkish journalists. The coalition includes the International Press Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Reporters Without Borders", the International Federation of Journalists and others. The coalition stated that the pressure on journalists increased rapidly after the elections in June, in which the ruling party failed to gain the majority, and the pressure could cause a significant damage to democracy in the country.
The delegation named other causes for concern such as physical attacks on journalists and the media, the raids on newsrooms and interceptions of the entire print editions, threatening the rhetoric against journalists, the deportation of foreign journalists, the decision of satellite and online TV providers to stop broadcasting channels critical to the state, and accelerated use of laws on insulting and anti-terrorism aimed at the independent media.
The Turkish president tried to take advantage of the law when arrested a 14-year-old boy who shared a Facebook post of a stranger that ridiculed Erdogan. The boy was held overnight in a cell, after which the court decided to release him on the basis of the Child Protection Act which prohibits children under 15 to be held with the charges that do not provide the punishment longer than 5 years.
Among other things, the background for the ongoing repression in the Turkish media included a major terrorist attack in Turkey on the Kurdish demonstrators which led to deaths of more than 100 people. Many believe that it was for the Turkish government; after the attacks, anti-government rallies broke out in different cities, with the protesters chanting: “Government is a murderer” and “Erdogan is a murderer!". At the same time, the Turkish authorities banned the journalists from showing the footage of the attack because it was "causing a sense of panic," and threatened the media with complete shutdown in case they disobeyed.
In 2015, Turkey was named partially free in the ranking of freedom in the world by Freedom House, a non-free in the ranking of press freedom, and is on 149th place out of 180 in the ranking of press freedom by "Reporters Without Borders."