Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu has directed a parliamentary question to Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay, asking the reason behind the high number of advertising bans imposed on opposition newspapers in 2020.
Some 88 percent of the advertising bans imposed by Turkey’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK), the state body responsible for regulating publicly funded advertisements in the media, in 2020 were on BirGün, Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Korkusuz and Evrensel, all newspapers critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Data received from the Presidential Communications Center (CİMER) revealed that BİK issued a total of 803 days of advertising bans last year, 88 percent of which were imposed on only five dailies.
Established in 1961, BİK’s structure was changed to enable it to impose advertising bans for violations of its regulations in 2013. The agency has a general assembly comprising members appointed by the government, the media industry and civil society.
“What is the reason behind this record number of advertising bans imposed on five newspapers critical of the AKP government in 2020, while the total number of bans issued in the 2000s is less than 100?” Tanrıkulu asked. “Will the AKP government immediately stop using a policy that aims to intimidate opposition dailies by imposing an increasing number of advertising bans on them?”
The International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in February 2020 called for an end to a ban on public advertising in the Evrensel and BirGün newspapers that was imposed in September 2019.
The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 175 journalists are behind bars and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large. Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) describes Turkey as “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.”