New York, March 1, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the action taken against the privately owned channel IMC TV after Turkey’s largest satellite provider dropped its signal permanently on Friday.
The state-controlled signal provider Türksat Satellite Communication and Cable TV Operation, acting on the orders of the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, took IMC TV off air mid-broadcast during a live interview with the Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who had just been released from prison, Reuters reported. The signal was dropped after Türksat received a notice from the public prosecutor saying an investigation had found IMC TV was spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey has designated a terrorist organization, according to reports. The signal has been dropped permanently from Türksat, the station said.
“We call on Turkish authorities to revoke the order calling on Türksat Satellite Communication and Cable TV Operation to drop IMC TV’s signal,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Turkey should stop harassing independent media outlets for their editorial policies. Audiences have the right to a wide range of viewpoints, while the state has no right to this blatant act of censorship.”
In a copy of the notice that IMC TV published on its website, the public prosecutor’s office ordered Türksat to take the station off air because analysis of its content concluded that IMC TV had propagated terrorism. The prosecutor said it investigated the station’s broadcasts between May 3 and September after anonymous viewer complaints were received last year.
IMC TV, which broadcasts mainly news, often criticizes the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and had recently covered clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists in the volatile southeast, Reuters reported. Viewers were faced with a black screen on Friday after the station’s signal was cut during the interview with Dündar and Gül, two journalists who spent 92 days in pre-trial detention and still face multiple life sentences if convicted of exposing state secrets, espionage, and aiding a terrorist group.
Eyüp Burç, general coordinator for IMC TV, told CPJ today that the channel plans to appeal the decision. He said IMC TV was prepared to take their case to Turkey’s Constitutional Court and, if need be, the European Court of Human Rights where, he said, the station will argue that the people’s right to be informed has been violated. The station has switched to a different signal provider, but Burç said he estimates the channel lost about 60 percent of viewers because Türksat is such a large provider.