Turkish television station Kanal D, owned by the pro-government Demirören Media Group, has fired prime-time news editor Mustafa Aşçıoğlu for covering public statements and group meetings of opposition parties, according to claims reported by the Medya Radar news website on Thursday.
A written announcement by the Demirören group on Friday indicated that Aşçıoğlu was replaced by Onur Tan, news director for CNN Türk, the Turkish franchise of CNN International and also owned by the group.
What triggered the events that led to Aşçıoğlu’s dismissal was the appointment of Zafer Şahin, former Ankara representative of the pro-government Takvim daily, as the new Ankara representative of Kanal D’s prime-time news in early March, Medya Radar said.
According to the claims, Şahin had been trying to muscle in on Aşçıoğlu’s territory, saying he shouldn’t cover group meetings and public statements by opposition parties, especially those of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party.
The tension between Şahin, who argued that seeing such news on Kanal D would irritate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and Aşçıoğlu caused the latter to be fired, Medya Radar said.
In March 2018 the Demirören family, owner of the media group and a close to Erdoğan, purchased media outlets owned by the Doğan Media Group, which was the largest media group in the country. Kanal D and CNN Türk were among the media outlets sold to the pro-government group, which had a value of $1.1 billion in total.
Press freedom in Turkey sustained a severe blow after a failed coup in July 2016 following which the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on independent media outlets under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Dozens of journalists were arrested, while hundreds of media outlets were closed down on bogus terrorism charges following the coup attempt.