Private Turkish television station Olay TV closed down on Friday, only 26 days after it started broadcasting, due to intense pressure from Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, local media reported, citing chief editor Süleyman Sarılar.
Olay TV, which went on air on November 30, is owned by Turkish businessmen Cavit Çağlar, who formerly served as minister of state responsible for state-owned banks, and Hüseyin Köksal.
During a live broadcast on Friday, Sarılar said Çağlar had pointed to government pressure as the reason for shutting down and that Köksal was searching for another station to buy.
“Çağlar, who owns the channel’s broadcasting rights, told us he had been under great pressure by the government and couldn’t continue. He even said he had been presented with a list of people to replace all of us and move Olay TV forward with a new staff,” Sarılar said.
“Everybody knows which office in Turkey would silence and pressure a television channel that just started broadcasting on Nov. 30 and one that sought to engage in neutral journalism amid the country’s highly polarized climate,” he added.
“I think our sense of journalism and broadcasting, which aimed to treat people from different political parties and faiths equally, bothered a large number of senior officials. Mr. Köksal decided to end his partnership with Çağlar as we all understood we couldn’t continue broadcasting with this editorial stance,” Sarılar said.
Olay TV went off the air following Sarılar’s statement.
Meanwhile, Çağlar spoke to the pro-government Demirören News Agency (DHA), saying that what led to the closure was a difference of opinion between him and Köksal regarding the network’s policies.
He added that he had been a center-right politician and didn’t feel comfortable with the network “prioritizing” the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as the network “was supposed to be neutral but ended up leaning towards HDP talking points.”
The ruling AKP accuses the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey, and the European Union.
PKK militants have fought against the state in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. The HDP, parliament’s third-largest party, denies links to terrorism.
“I told my partner that under these conditions, I couldn’t continue and would have to leave the channel,” Çağlar said, adding that Koksal could start another channel with new staff at an opportune time as he held the network license.
Çağlar founded NTV News, one of the first news networks in Turkey that was a respected name in the news business for more than a decade, before falling under the thumb of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the early 2010s, a fate that eventually befell all other mainstream newspapers and news channels.
He is also known for his good relations with both the Turkish and Russian governments and received the Russian Order of Friendship for his contribution to the normalization of relations between the two countries following the downing of a Russian jet in November 2015.