Less than 48 hours before police raided two private television channels belonging to one of Turkey’s largest companies, the latest target of a highly questionable legal investigation, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu addressed the country’s leading businessmen:
“Let’s turn Istanbul into a safe investment harbour with our democracy and judicial system. People who invest money here should feel they can earn more from this investment and their money is under protection,” Davutoğlu said, adding: “We have all seen how the dictatorial regimes that disregard freedom of expression, human rights and liberties and limit entrepreneurship liberties are now collapsing”.
Mr Davutoglu was accompanied by the two top names overseeing the economy, Ali Babacan, and Mehmet Şimşek.
A day later, not far from the luxury hotel where the country’s economic czars and the business elite were respectfully listening to the Prime Minister, Special Operations police had stormed the Istanbul offices of the İpek Media Group, belonging to Koza İpek Holding, one of Turkey’s largest companies.
Forcing their way into the control rooms of the two channels, Kanaltürk and Bugün TV, they unplugged wires, pushed studio managers and journalists out of the way and stopped broadcasting, all of this watched minute by minute, live on television.
Tarık Toros, the editor in-chief, was served with a handwritten note, informing him that he was relieved of his duties. He was forcefully removed from the premises.
TV screens went blank for a while. Later, the scheduled programmes were replaced by a documentary about camels on one channel and a programme about Adolf Hitler on the other.
Meanwhile, protestors outside the building were dispersed with tear gas and water cannon. Some, among them journalists, were detained for resisting. Photos of blood-stained palms waving press cards, as well as handcuffed and dragged bodies were added to Turkey’s already shameful media album.
Two days earlier, Koza Ipek Holding, also the owner of dailies Bugün and Millet, was placed under administration of trustees while an investigation into their alleged ties with the US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen was going on. On the day its media outlets were seized, Mr Gülen’s name was added to the list of the most dangerous and wanted terrorists. The Gülen movement, which was the key ally of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government until their much-publicised falling out in 2013, is also listed as a terrorist organisation attempting to throw the government by non-violent means.
Silencing two television channels four days before the general election is a scandalous enough obstruction of media freedom. According to legal experts, seizing control of a private company without evidence of criminal wrongdoing is a clear violation of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.
What’s more, government-picked trustees that were installed at the holding’s 22 companies are acting as judge, jury and executioner.
As a result of this latest politically motivated action by the government, three listed companies belonging to Koza Ipek group have already seen their shares collapse, losing about $410 million in market value.
By now, we have realized that the Erdoğan led AKP government has no regard for free media. One of the AKP’s deputies already threatened similar action against the rest of the opposition media after the 1st of November elections. If the European Commission president Jean Claude-Juncker’s recent disgraceful comment about the EU not “harping on” at Turkey about its human rights record is anything to go by, they can get away with a lot more. No wonder the EU withheld their Progress Report until after next Sunday’s election.
How far Turkey’s rulers can ignore the economic consequences of prolonged political uncertainty and loss of investor confidence is another matter.
This post is also available in: Turkish