In this October 28, 2015, file photo, a demonstrator holds a sign reading "Free media cannot be silenced" at a protest in Istanbul. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
In this October 28, 2015, file photo, a demonstrator holds a sign reading "Free media cannot be silenced" at a protest in Istanbul. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey closes at least 20 TV, radio stations

New York, September 29, 2016–Turkish authorities should immediately reverse an order to close at least 20 television and radio stations and allow them to continue broadcasting without interference, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The government used emergency powers to order the stations closed last night, and police raided and sealed the offices of at least two of the broadcasters today, according to press reports.

Reports differed on the number of stations affected, and at the time of publication, neither the Turkish broadcast regulator, RTÜK, nor TÜRKSAT, the government-controlled satellite operator, had issued any statement on the order. The opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported 23 stations were closed; the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported 20 stations were shuttered, but neither news outlet published a full list. As with previous government closures of broadcasters since the July 15 failed military coup, the government relied on Cabinet Decree 668, which gives the government the authority to close any media outlet and confiscate its assets on broadly defined “national security” grounds, according to press reports.

The broadcasters included pro-Kurdish and leftist radio stations, alongside a Kurdish-language channel for children and a channel that played Kurdish folk music. Also among the closed broadcasters is TV 10, which catered to an audience from Turkey’s Alevi sect of Islam, the country’s largest religious minority. The channel described the action as intended to “silence the Alevis’ voice,” according to reports.

“After silencing much of the critical press, Turkey is now targeting a wide swath of cultural and political expression by shuttering minority broadcasters,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said. “When the government sees even children’s programming as a threat to national security, it is clearly abusing its emergency powers.”

TÜRKSAT stopped carrying the signals last night following an order from the regulator RTÜK, according to press reports.

IMC TV, Hayatın Sesi, Azadi TV, Jiyan TV, Van TV, Denge TV, and Zarok TV were no longer on the air in Istanbul today. Yön Radio, from Istanbul, SES Radio, from the southern Turkish city of Mersin, and Radio Dünya, from the southern Turkish city of Adana, were also closed, press reports said.

Responding to press reports that the Kurdish-language broadcaster IMC TV was among the outlets ordered closed, General Secretary for the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS, by its Turkish acronym) Mustafa Kuleli told CPJ, “All the voices that oppose the leading administration are being silenced somehow, and both journalists and the people are being intimidated. Media organs that provide a platform for the only remaining forces of opposition — the socialists, Alevis, and Kurds — are being shut down to drown the public opinion under a single point of view.”

Eyüp Burç, IMC TV’s general coordinator, said on the channel’s live broadcast, which wassubsequently reported on the news website T24: “We are facing a new fascist state.”

Police raided and sealed the offices of Adana’s Radio Dünya, DİHA reported today. Police also raided and sealed the offices of Mersin’s Radio SES, the leftist newspaper Evrensel reported today. Both stations are continuing to stream programming online.

Zarok TV’s general broadcast coordinator, Dilek Demiral, told DİHA that the channel’s signal was cut at around 8 p.m. last night, Turkish time. She said the station called the RTÜK to find out what was happening, and that the head of the agency told her that the station’s broadcast was cut under the authority of Decree 668. Zarok TV is a Kurdish-language children’s channel.

Feleknas Uca, a member of parliament from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), raised the matter in parliament today, asking Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım how many media organs were shut down and why, the news website Bianet reported. Bianet said that Govend TV, which played Kurdish folk music, was also shut down.

Last night’s order followed the RTÜK’s shuttering of two local radio stations and a TV channel last week, Cumhuriyet reported. The regulator on September 21 ordered the closure of ART TV, ART Radio, and Uşak Radio Klas, which served Turkey’s western Uşak Province, also under the authority of Decree 668, the newspaper reported.