TODAY’S – Pro-gov’t media fails to pay debts to state agency

Pro-gov’t media fails to pay debts to state agencyA parliamentary question submitted by an opposition deputy has revealed that government media has failed to repay debts in the amount of TL 1228 million ($586,000) to the Anadolu news agency (AA),  a semi-official agency that has recently turned into a government mouthpiece, a Turkish daily said on Thursday.  In answer to the parliamentary question submitted by Turgut Dibek, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulent ArIn, the deputy prime minister responsible for AA, said the outstanding debt owed by national dailies to AA for services provided in 2013 is around TL 1228 million.

“It was also confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Bulent ArIn that the Anadolu news agency, which has turned into a tool of political propaganda following the employment of a large number of sympathizers of the ruling party during AKP [Justice and Development Party, or AK Party] rule, is being used as a means for pressure against dailies with an opposing editorial line [to the government],” the Taraf daily said, noting at the same time that it is only Taraf among the dailies whose AA subscription was cancelled due to its overdue debt.Taraf has accused AA of canceling its subscription because of reports criticizing the government published by the daily.

The news agency has long been criticized by opposition parties for acting like the mouthpiece of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).  Noting that ArIn did not reveal the subscribers that are in debt to the agency for the year 2013, Dibek said: “If he were to reveal [that], it would be clear that there is no rightful ground for the cancellation of Taraf’s subscription.

”  Dibek also recalled that the government media is claimed to owe TL 10.5 million to the news agency.

“If this [claim] were not correct, ArIn would have revealed both the money AA is owed for the year 2014 and the institutions in debt [to the agency],” he added. In his response to the question, ArIn admitted that AA was trying to collect the payments overdue, saying: “The legal process is ongoing for the collection of debts.

As part of an effort to collect subscription fees, AA gives a call every month to subscribers, sends a letter of warning to those subscribers in arrears [to the agency] regarding the payment they need to make and stops the subscriptions of those who fail to pay.”Noting that when no result is obtained through that process, legal action is taken for the collection of debts, ArIn added: “[AA] cancelled the subscription of one national daily and stopped serving two dailies on the grounds that they had acted in contravention to the contract and established trade practices or that they had failed to pay their subscription fee.

   According to the CHP’s Dibek, the news agency’s discriminatory attitude towards the Taraf daily represents a major obstacle to freedom of the press. Dibek said: “The stopping of subscriptions by AA of dailies that publish reports which are not liked by the government is against the law, [and] the Constitution as it restricts freedom of the press.

”At the beginning of April AA announced in a statement on its website that it had stopped providing news reports to the Taraf daily due to an allegedly slanderous report about the news agency published by the daily before the local elections on March 30. AA had not informed Taraf of its move before posting the news on its website.

In the statement, Anadolu accused the daily, which subscribes to the news agency, of not publishing a correction it had sent to Taraf to be published regarding a March 29 report about the news agency. The news agency cut off all business ties with Taraf, it announced in the statement.

The Taraf daily included Anadolu’s actions in the report it had published. Taraf’s report claimed that Anadolu was acting in the government’s interest when giving out local election results.

The Taraf daily said it would take the issue to court, accusing Anadolu of issuing the statement without first informing the daily of the subscription cancellation. “Without first officially informing us, it [Anadolu] announced it had stopped providing reports [to Taraf] by informing persons who are not party to the contract, the media and the public in a statement.

This is a violation of the contract [between the two companies]. We will seek legal action to protect our rights,” Veysel Ok, Taraf’s laywer told Today’s Zaman at the time.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman