In my blog of 25 September ‘Defending journalism in Turkey’ I described the interview I gave with Ugur Güç, TGS president, on an evening news programme on IMC TV. We discussed the increasing number of prosecutions against journalists and during the interview presenter Banu Güven, mentioned that their television station had been threatened with closure. Within two weeks the station had been taken off air, their equipment seized and the journalists and other media and support workers joined the growing numbers of unemployed, reported on the EFJ web site at 2,500 – see http://europeanjournalists.org/blog/2016/10/24/turkey-107-journalists-in-prison-and-2500-others-left-unemployed/ of 24 October. Recently I received an eye witness account of the raid leading up to the closure of IMC TV which is reproduced below:
“On October 4th, members from RTÜK (Higher Board for Radio and Television) came to IMC TV accompanied by a dozen policemen and a couple of officials from Ministry of Finance. It had already been 4 days since we were informed about our fate by a pro-government/pro-Erdoğan newspaper’s website. Although we could not confirm the news, because no one from RTÜK had any information, and the Vice Premier in charge (Mr Numan Kurtulmuş) did not return our calls, we anticipated that they would soon emerge on our door.
It was around noon, when this group arrived in our studios. We were broadcasting live from the studio. One of my colleagues was interviewing the coordinator of the channel, Eyüp Burç, about the media crackdown by Erdoğan. Another team of same composition had just raided the offices of Hayatın Sesi TV. We were expecting them any moment.
First thing they wanted was to go to the control room, but to do that they had to cross the studio passing before the cameras. They wanted to avoid showing themselves and their faces to the public first. But we gave them no other option. They rushed across the studio.
Once they were in the control room, they asked our technicians to shut down the equipment and to cut off the signal. At this moment, there were two live pictures on the screen. One from the control room showing what was going on there, the other from the studio filled with IMC employees. While the RTÜK officials along with the police were ordering to shut down the machines one after the other, we were chanting slogans like ‘‘Free press cannot be silenced!’’…
It was an emotional moment, some of my colleagues couldn’t stop their tears. We were still on air but knowing that soon our signal would go off, we also used Periscope to keep on going live on social media, as IMC TV and also individually, we were live on periscope, too. I also entered the control room and there I asked: ‘‘What are you planning to do here?’’ The guy answered: ‘’We are planning to fulfill the orders.’’ These orders were given by the vice – prime minister who had been apparently warned about our ‘‘activities’’ endangering national security by a three member committee. A masterpiece of Erdoğan’s state of emergency.
After our signal disappeared we moved on with periscope, however the police was uncomfortable with these many smart phones capturing these moments live. Once again, they were afraid showing their faces. The police chief warned me as I was on air on my phone. I responded saying that he should please back off. He did.
In the control room there was this discussion if they could confiscate the equipment there, and to what extent they would seal our working space. They had to discuss the issue of confiscation because we had rented the whole equipment in the control room. As for the issue of sealing the offices. Our CEO convinced them not to seal the main entrance. Only the control room was sealed at the end. The equipment there was registered by the state TV, TRT as trustee.
We had many visitors, colleagues who came for support. Solidarity made us feel good, however one major problem persists: Unemployment. Since then around 120 journalists and employees only at IMC TV are jobless with no or little possibility to find themselves a job in this media landscape.”
Since then the crackdown against dissenting voices has been stepped up. On 30 October the EFJ reported that the the Turkish government issued a decree shutting down 15 Kurdish media outlets: 11 newspapers, two news agencies and three magazines. The latest closures brought the number of media outlets shut down under state of emergency to 168. Subsequently a number of leading MPs from the Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party) were arrested and subsequently jailed. The government then acted swiftly to block access to social media to shut down protests.
At the same time Turkish police detained the editor and at least 12 senior staff of Turkey’s secular Cumhuriyet newspaper. The editor-in-chief, Murat Sabuncu, the cartoonist, Musa Kart, the paper’s lawyer and several columnists were detained, some following raids at their homes. Cumhuriyet is one of the country’s oldest newspapers. According to the paper, police also had warrants for the detentions of 16 staff members.
On 5 November the EFJ web site reported that The Turkish court had sentenced 9 executives and columnists of Cumhuriyet newspaper to prison. In response Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, issued issued a statement saying that: “The scale of detentions, dismissals and shut-downs, notably in the media sector, based on charges of alleged terrorism, is highly questionable.”