Station promoting peace between Kurds, Turks among those removed by Turksat

Mesut Kızmaz, producer of the program titled Dogruya Dogru on Dunya TV, one of the television stations which was taken off Turksat, told Today’s Zaman that Kurdish intellectuals who appeared on his program were the voice of common sense that served to decrease the tension which sometimes increased between Kurds and Turks.

More than a dozen television and radio stations owned by the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, one of the few critical media outlets in Turkey, were recently removed from Turksat after a court order. The broadcasts of the TV and radio stations were stopped by Turksat at midnight on Saturday.

Turkey has long been struggling to resolve its decades-old Kurdish issue and terrorism problem. The settlement process, launched to this end by the government at the end of 2012, was suspended before the general election in June. Since the suspension, nearly 200 members of the security forces have been killed in attacks by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Molla Sibgatullah Sevgili is the host of the program titled “İnanc ve Huzur” (Peace and Faith) on Dunya TV.

Noting that he received at least 20 questions from Kurds all over the world when his shows were aired, he told Today’s Zaman that young people in Turkey would be negatively affected by the removal.

The TV and radio stations removed from Turksat are as follows: Samanyolu TV, the Samanyolu Haber news station, Samanyolu TV Europe, Samanyolu Africa, Mehtap TV, Yumurcak TV, MC TV, Dunya TV, Tuna Shopping TV, Irmak TV, MC EU, Ebru TV, Samanyolu Haber Radio, Burc FM, Radyo Mehtap, Dunya Radyo, Radyo Berfin and Radyo Cihan.

The European Federation of Journalists condemned the government pressure over critical media in a statement on Tuesday. Mehmet Koksal, who is the federation member responsible for Turkey and the Balkans, said, “We are noting all that happened, and we will make efforts for what has been done to be reflected in some way in the European Council and the progress report of the European Union.”

Saim Orhan, who is the producer and host of the well-liked travel program titled Ayna (Mirror) on Samanyolu TV, drew attention to declining democratic standards in Turkey saying, “You would not see such a thing even in a primitive country.”

Orhan signaled that he would continue in his struggle to make his message heard, saying in remarks to Today’s Zaman, “When a mirror is broken, it is multiplied.”

Following the arbitrary removal, members of Turkey’s state broadcasting watchdog have called on citizens victimized by Turksat’s decision to take the issue to court.

“This is a civic and democratic right. They [citizens] should use their rights not only in defense of their rights but also for the rule of law to pervade,” Suleyman Demirkan, a member of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), said.

Turksat’s controversial move came despite a decision by the Ankara 6th Administrative Court on Friday demanding that it submit to the court “the documents, information and legal evidence” it has to justify the removal.

The court also urged Turksat to submit its defense within the required legal period. Noting that Turksat’s decision is in violation with the legislation in place in the Constitution, Demirkan has told Today’s Zaman that people who are no longer able to watch or listen to the television stations and radio stations in question may seek their rights as per the Turkish Commercial Code.

People who have an antenna to receive Turksat’s satellite broadcast of many television stations, including those recently removed, are victims of Turksat’s decision as they — some of them at least — had installed an antenna expecting to be able to watch the television stations in question.

Turksat dropped these stations despite having signed an agreement with the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group that necessitated a service being provided until 2024. “This is not a sustainable attitude in the long run,” said Demirkan, noting that Turkey may also face some sanctions emanating from international law because of the removal.

Turksat’s move is part of government efforts to silence critical media, according to Ersin Ongel, another RTUK member. The stations in question were removed from Turksat based on allegations that the stations were supporting a terrorist organization. There has been no final court decision regarding the claims about Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, and the broadcasting license of the group has not been cancelled by RTUK, Ongel has told Today’s Zaman. He said, “Their decision serves to intimidate other [critical] media organizations.”

“There is no guarantee that others will not face a similar treatment,” he added, noting that there are indications that critical media outlets may be subjected to increasing pressure in the future. The removal from all these platforms is a major blow commercially to the group because they are the main platforms through which television stations reach the public.

Hikmet Sami Turk, a former minister of justice, blasted Turksat’s decision by drawing attention to the unjust and non-democratic nature of the move. He said in remarks to the Ozgur Dusunce daily, “When the belief in justice is gone, it means that the rule of law is gone.”

Stressing that the government aims to silence the critical media outlets, he warned that the elimination of justice would also harm the social order and the existence of the state in the long run.

The prosecutor’s demand came as part of a criminal investigation into media outlets close to the faith-based Gulen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

Following the removal, more than 800 of the employees of the Samanyolu group lost their jobs because the group needs to downsize to survive without as much income.