Turkish authorities impose advertising ban on daily over criticism of Syria incursion

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Protesters take the tea during a demonstration in support to the Turkish daily newspaper "Cumhuriyet" outside its headquarters in Istanbul on November 1, 2016. Turkish police on October 31, 2016, detained the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet -- a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- as Ankara widens a crackdown on opposition media.

Turkey’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK), the state body responsible for regulating public-funded advertisements in the media, has imposed a 19-day advertising ban on the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which published a column critical of the government’s October incursion into Syria, the Ahval news website reported on Saturday.

The penalty was imposed over a column published in the print version of the daily and a news story that appeared on its website, according to a Cumhuriyet statement.

The column, which contained an uncensored profanity, was found to be in violation of press ethics guidelines. The column’s content also included criticism of Turkey’s cross-border military incursion into northern Syria in October, which BİK said belittled the operation.

The news story, which reported on Turkey’s media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), “has crossed the boundaries of informing the public and freedom of expression, violating the press ethics guidelines for willfully distorting or contracting the truth,” according to BİK.

Most newspapers in Turkey depend on revenue from advertising that BİK allocates, especially those operating outside of major media conglomerates.

Turkey’s left-leaning BirGün daily recently accused BİK of unjustly imposing an embargo on the newspaper, with editorial board member İbrahim Varlı calling the ban “an attempt to get [BirGün] to toe the line.”

Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of the left-leaning Evrensel daily, said the paper shared Birgün’s fate.

“BİK wants to push opposition newspapers outside the arena,” Polat told union news portal Sendika.org.

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