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Shutdown Media

On April 8, 2021, the Constitutional Court annulled the Decree Law, which paved the way for the closure of newspapers, televisions and agencies on the grounds that they "posed a threat to national security" during the state of emergency.

Owned by Former Minister of State and businessperson Cavit Çağlar, having started broadcasting on November 30, and directed by Süleyman Sarılar, former News Coordinator of Kanal D, Olay TV was closed on December 25, 2020, after broadcasting for 26 days. The channel was criticized by the government for broadcasting the Parliamentary Group meeting of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The criticism against the Turkish government's attempts to eliminate opposition media has been an ongoing issue during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and increased in the recent past. Through decrees declared following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, media outlets in connection with the Gülen organization and the Kurdish media outlets were closed down.

The conglomerates seized by the Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) for their debts owned many print outlets and TV channels. Sabah, Takvim, Star dailies, Star TV, Kral TV, ATV, Cine-5 TV; later Akşam, Güneş dailies, Show TV, SkyTürk TV, Turkey's largest digital platform Digitürk, radios and magazines were under the control of the TMSF.

During the 19-year rule of the AKP, businesspeople close to the government sometimes joined tenders as sole entrants and later owned media outlets.

These businesspeople were provided with 750 million USD by state banks, in order to buy these outlets. The parliamentary question regarding "whether these funds were paid back to the banks" has not been answered by the parliament based on the claim that it was a “trade secret”.

Trustees were appointed to Gülenist-affiliated media outlets and companies: Koza-İpek Media Group, which owned Bugün and Millet dailies as well as Kanaltürk TV and Bugün TV; Feza Media Group, which owned Zaman, Today's Zaman and Meydan dailies, Cihan News Agency and Aksiyon magazine etc. The trustees shut down Bugün and Millet dailies. Public Satellite Communications and Cable TV Operations Company Turksat has canceled the broadcasts of Bugün TV, Kanaltürk TV, Samanyolu TV, S News TV, Mehtap TV, Irmak TV.

Özgür Gündem daily was shut down by the government for allegedly propagandizing for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and acting as the organization's media organ. The police raided the newsroom, taking 22 employees into custody. Özgür Gündem’s editor-in-chief and chief editor were arrested.

The Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily began on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016 in order to express support and solidarity and to defend press freedom against oppression and investigations. The daily was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency.

Investigations were launched against 50 of the 56 Editors-in-Chief on Watch who had participated in the solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem. In 11 of these cases, the court ordered not to prosecute and in 38 cases, a lawsuit was brought. A total of 188 months, 15 days of imprisonment and a fine of 67 thousand TRY were imposed. In these cases, 4 people were acquitted. In this case, Murat Çelikkan, the Co-Director of Hafıza Merkezi (Truth Justice and Memory Center), was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months in prison. After being imprisoned for 68 days, he was released on probation. Journalist Ayşe Düzkan was also sentenced to 18 months in prison and she was released in July 2019. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey and BİA Media Monitoring Reporter Erol Önderoğlu, writer Ahmet Nesin and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV-HRFT) Chair Prof. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı participated in the "Editors-in-Chief on Watch" campaign launched in solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed by the Statutory Decree no. 675, then a lawsuit was filed against them for "propagandizing for a terrorist organization." They had 10-days pre-trial detention, then they were released. In July 2019, they were all acquitted by the court. Yet, the court of appeals overturned their acquittals and ruled for their retrial. As of October 2021, the retrial began and the next hearing will be in February 2022.

The indictment lodged in 2016 against 19 people from the Cumhuriyet newspaper, including executives, writers and other employees, was approved in 2017 for “aiding a terrorist organization as a non-member.” In 2018, the decision of the case was announced. According to the decision announced in April 2018, 15 people were sentenced to a total of 81 years, 45 days in prison, three were acquitted. Can Dündar and İlhan Tanır's files were separated. Journalists Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç, Kadri Gürsel, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Ahmet Şık, Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu, Emre İper, Bülent Utku were convicted and judicial control was granted. On February 19, 2019, the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice, 3rd Penal Chamber (the court of appeal) upheld the verdict in the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s case. Those who were sentenced to prison for less than five years were Kadri Gürsel, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Emre İper, Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Hakan Kara. On April 25, 2019, Musa Kart, Emre İper, Önder Çelik, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Güray Öz were imprisoned for the execution of their sentences. 

After the Court of Cassation ruled that the execution of the prison sentences of former daily Cumhuriyet workers Musa Kart, Güray Öz, M. Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik should be suspended and they should be released from prison, the journalists were released from Kandıra Prison in İzmit on September 12. After the Judicial Reform Package was published in the Official Gazette and has entered into effect, the court has ruled for the release of Emre İper, the former financial affairs officer of daily Cumhuriyet and the last arrested defendant of the Cumhuriyet case.

On November 10, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Turkey violated Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on the right to liberty and security and Article 10 on freedom of expression and should pay compensation to the applicants. Murat Sabuncu, the newspaper's editor-in-chief at the time, Akın Atalay, Musa Kart, Önder Çelik, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Hakan Karasinir, Güray Tekin Öz and Bülent Utku will be paid 16,000 Euro each, according to the decision.

July 15 coup attempt and the "State of Emergency"

Between July 2016 and July 2018, Turkey had been governed by a state of emergency which was declared five days after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. On July 19, 2018, the government ended the state of emergency after having extended it for seven three-month periods, with the declaration of 32 statutory decrees in total for two years.

In the first two months of the State of Emergency, a total of 620 press cards and 34 parliamentary press cards as well as the passports of some journalists were cancelled.

The decrees [668 (27.07.2016), 675 (29.10.2016), 677 (22.11.2016), 675 (29.10.2016) ve 670 (17.08.2016), 689 ( 29.04.2017), 693 (25.08.2017) and 695 (24.12.2017) and 701(08.07.2018)] declared during the state of emergency brought the shutdowns of 6 news agencies, 41 radios, 38 TVs, 70 newspapers, 20 magazines, and 29 printing houses and distribution channels (in total 204 news agencies). The decisions to shut down 17 newspapers, 4 radios, 4 TV and a total of 25 media organizations under decrees were canceled.

During the state of emergency, 179 media organisations, [newspapers (53), TVs (34), radios (37), magazines (20), news agencies (6) and printing houses (29)] were shut down on the grounds that they belong to “the Gülen Media”, “the PKK Media”, “the Leftist Media” and at least 2,500 journalists became unemployed.

These outlets were the ones known for their close ties to the Gülen community and the ones from the Kurdish media. 

The related Statutory Decrees also indicated that all types of movables and property of these shutdown media outlets were transferred to the treasury, the debts of these outlets would not be met and legal remedies were not available. 

According to an updated State of Emergency report of the Human Rights Joint Platform (IHOP), 134,327 civil servants were definitely dismissed from public service and their positions. Only 3,981 of them (2.9 percent of total) have been reinstated in their positions. The decisions of dismissal for 130,346 people have remained in force. 

In addition, during the State of Emergency period from July 20, 2016 to July 18, 2018, a total of 7,508 people subject to the Law no. 2914 on Higher Education Personnel, 6,081 academics and 1,427 administrative personnel, were fired from universities. Only 185 have been reinstated. The decisions of dismissal for 5,896 academics and 1,427 administrative personnel have remained in effect.

12 Members of the Parliament from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including the party's co-chairs, were jailed. The party's co-mayors have been dismissed or imprisoned.

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