By Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has ordered the closure of 20 television and radio stations, including one that airs children’s programs, on charges they spread “terrorist propaganda”, adding to fears that emergency rule is being used to stifle the media.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants a three-month state of emergency, imposed after a failed coup attempt in July, to be prolonged past October so authorities can eradicate the threat posed by a religious movement blamed for the attempt, as well as Kurdish militants who have waged a 32-year insurgency.
The banned channels are owned or operated by Kurds or the Alevi religious minority, according to Hamza Aktan, news editor at IMC TV, a news broadcaster slated for closure. He cited a copy of the decision obtained by his channel, which was based on powers given the government in a decree issued in July.
“This has nothing to do with the coup. It is an effort to silence the last independent media covering the Kurdish issue and violations committed by the state,” Aktan told Reuters.
IMC has aired reports looking at security forces’ conduct during 14 months of military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has killed thousands.
Among the 12 shuttered television channels are Govend TV, which plays folk music, and Zarok TV, which airs Kurdish-language children’s cartoons. The decision also shut 11 radio stations for harming national security, Aktan said.
“Turkey is targeting a wide swath of cultural and political expression by shuttering minority broadcasters,” Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “When the government sees even children’s programming as a threat to national security, it is clearly abusing its emergency powers.”
RULE BY DECREE
An official at the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the state watchdog, confirmed 20 stations were being closed.
Erdogan argues the state of emergency is helping authorities swiftly root out supporters of the military uprising by bypassing parliament to enact laws and suspend rights.
Turkey blames U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the coup in which 240 soldiers, police and civilians were killed trying to stop rogue troops who had commandeered fighter jets and tanks to bomb parliament and shoot protesters. Another 100 people behind the putsch were killed.
Some 100,000 state employees suspected of links with the Gulen movement have been purged, and 32,000 people are in jail for their alleged role in the coup. Gulen denies involvement.
Authorities have also targeted the media, arresting dozens of members of the press to make Turkey the world’s biggest jailer of journalists and shutting down scores of media outlets.
Aktan and other IMC staff continued airing segments on Friday while waiting for police to arrive at their offices. Other stations on the closure list were raided and sealed off on Thursday, newspapers and CPJ said.
IMC, founded in 2011, has faced other punitive measures. In February, its satellite feed was cut while prosecutors investigate if it supports the PKK.
Aktan denied any links between IMC and the militants, citing the channel’s principles of objectivity.
(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Dominic Evans)