Press Council files complaint against caretakers in Koza İpek media group

Press Council files complaint against caretakers in Koza İpek media group

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
Press Council files complaint against caretakers in Koza İpek media group

Turkish protesters shout slogans outside the headquarters of Bugün newspaper and Kanaltürk television station in Istanbul during a demonstration against the Turkish government's crackdown on media outlets on October 28, 2015. AFP Photo

Turkey’s Press Council has filed a complaint against a penal court judge who assigned a caretaker panel to the management of Koza İpek Group’s media outlets.

The council said in a statement on Nov. 4 that it had filed a complaint at the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) against the prosecutor and judge of the Ankara 5th Court of Peace over their decisions to transfer the management of the Kanaltürk television channel and the Bugün TV channel to a caretaker team, noting that the caretakers were patently not objective. 

The petition said the developments were a violation of the international agreements that Turkey is party to.

“An investigation is requested, as penal court judge Yunus Süer clearly violated the freedom of opinion and failed to do his duty to assure fundamental rights and freedom and security of law,” said the petition, referring to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court.

“The operation led by the caretakers has started to affect, de facto, the editorial preferences of the media outlets in question. The context of the assignment is ambiguous and the panel has censored the publications,” said the petition.

On Nov. 3, 58 employees working at dailies Bugün, Millet and television stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, which are owned by the Koza İpek Media Group, were forced to take mandatory leave from work following a police raid against the group’s headquarters in late October. When they attempted to return on Nov. 3, however, they were not permitted into the media group’s office building in Istanbul’s Şişli district.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Oct. 26 ordered the Koza İpek Group to be placed under the management of a trustee panel while an investigation continues into the group’s purported ties to U.S.-based scholar Fethullah Gülen, a former government ally who is currently wanted for “being the head of and managing a terror organization.” 

Istanbul police used force on Oct. 28 to enter the group’s headquarters, dramatically breaking into the main broadcasting room and shutting down Kanaltürk and Bugün TV. The caretakers then prevented the printing of the Oct. 29 editions of the two dailies, declaring the proposed front-page story of Bugün as a “disgrace” while summarily firing employees during a meeting the following day. Since the appointment of the caretakers, the papers have taken a decidedly pro-government line, in contrast to the period before the forcible takeover.

Meanwhile, one of the caretaker managers of the Koza İpek Media Group said the new management would not work with “militants” and those who “have secret to-do lists,” implying that the new administration of the media outlets would not let insiders continue working at the media group.

“We will continue to work with those who are not militants as well as those who do not have secret to-do lists and who do not call for resistance,” said Ümit Önal, one of the caretakers, speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency on Nov. 5.