Turkey chan­nel shuts down while live on air

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

When the po­lice fi­nally came, the staff of IMC TV in Istanbul were ready. Dozens of em­ploy­ees crowded be­hind the an­chor’s news desk, ap­plaud­ing their man­age­ment and shout­ing “free me­dia won’t be si­lenced.” Then as tech­ni­cal ex­perts sent by the au­thor­i­ties fid­dled with wires in the back­room, broad­casts were cut and screens went blank.

The chan­nel-which had a pro-Kur­dish stance but also en­gaged with women’s and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues-was the lat­est ca­su­alty of what ac­tivists see as a grow­ing crack­down against the me­dia in Turkey in the wake of the July 15 failed coup. The gov­ern­ment in­sists me­dia re­mains free and di­verse in Turkey, ac­cus­ing out­lets like IMC TV of pro­mot­ing the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK), claims the chan­nel de­nies.

“Why are you cov­er­ing your face? Long live hell for the cruel!” the chan­nel’s gen­eral man­ager, Eyup Burc told the po­lice live on air as they raided the chan­nel. “We are against all coups and we are against those who stage their own coup out of a coup!” he said. The chan­nel was one of a dozen TV out­lets or­dered closed last week un­der Turkey’s con­tro­ver­sial state of emer­gency im­posed in the wake of the coup and ex­tended by an­other three months from October 19.

Rather than be­ing ac­cused of sup­port­ing the July 15 coup, they are charged with broad­cast­ing “ter­ror pro­pa­ganda” for the out­lawed PKK which has fought a bloody 32-year in­sur­gency against the Turk­ish state. This ap­pears to have con­firmed fears of ac­tivists, who have re­peat­edly warned that the state of emer­gency could be used for crackdowns be­yond the coup sus­pects.

‘Could come any time’

“There are no chan­nels left to broad­cast this speech!” the leader of the op­po­si­tion pro-Kur­dish Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas told a meet­ing of his party in the par­lia­ment. “They be­lieve that the peo­ple will sup­port the gov­ern­ment when they are not in­formed of the news. They are de­ceived again,” he added. De­spite the clo­sure or­der, IMC TV had de­fi­antly re­mained on air un­til Tues­day through the Hot­bird satel­lite and in­ter­net broad­casts, with staff ex­pect­ing the po­lice to ar­rive at any mo­ment.

“Po­lice may come to our door any time and put a com­plete halt to our broad­casts,” Banu Gu­ven, pre­sen­ter at IMC, told AFP a day be­fore the po­lice raid. The tele­vi­sion chan­nel has at­tracted a num­ber of jour­nal­ists from the main­stream me­dia like Gu­ven, who worked for 14 years at the widely-fol­lowed NTV. “We do not threaten any­one’s se­cu­rity. On the con­trary we are a chan­nel that de­fends peo­ple’s right to re­ceive news,” Gu­ven said. Sev­eral other broad­cast­ers, in­clud­ing pro-Kur­dish Ozgur Radyo and the strongly left­ist Hay­atin Sesi TV, were also raided and shut down on Mon­day.

Dilek Gul, an­other IMC jour­nal­ist, said her tele­vi­sion sta­tion did not do any­thing wrong. “Dra­matic shut­downs of me­dia out­lets have be­come a fa­mil­iar drama in Turkey,” she told AFP. Ear­lier this year, Turk­ish po­lice used wa­ter can­non to take over the head­quar­ters of the Za­man news­pa­per linked to the cleric Fethul­lah Gulen who was later blamed for the coup. How­ever there has been no sug­ges­tion IMC is linked to Gulen.

The clo­sure has come at a time of grow­ing con­cerns for press free­dom in Turkey un­der Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, with sev­eral prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists un­der ar­rest fol­low­ing the coup. “All form of op­po­si­tion in Turkey is now de­prived of its voice,” Erol On­deroglu, Turkey rep­re­sen­ta­tive of press free­dom watch­dog Re­porters With­out Bor­ders (RSF) told AFP.

On­deroglu was him­self de­tained for 10 days in June for “ter­ror pro­pa­ganda” af­ter he guest-edited a pro-Kur­dish news­pa­per, Ozgur Gun­dem. The gov­ern­ment in­sists that Turkey has vi­brant op­po­si­tion me­dia. Anti-Er­do­gan colum­nists still write in some main­stream me­dia like the Hur­riyet daily. Of­fi­cials ar­gue no other Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has done more for Kur­dish me­dia, point­ing to the set­ting up of the coun­try’s first state-run Kur­dish TV, TRT Kurdi. But Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 coun­tries in RSF’s World Press Free­dom In­dex. Ugur Guc, head of the Turk­ish Jour­nal­ists’ Union, said the gov­ern­ment was us­ing the coup as a pre­text to “pres­sure all the op­po­si­tion and so­cial­ist quar­ters.” He said: “The coup failed but a counter coup is in place.” —AFP

ISTANBUL: Em­ploy­ees of prom­i­nent pro-Kur­dish tele­vi­sion chan­nel IMC TV re­act as Turk­ish po­lice raided the head­quar­ters of the TV chan­nel. - AFP

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