A record 45-day official advertising ban was imposed on the Evrensel newspaper on June 23 over a column by Ragıp Zarakolu titled “No escape from ill fate,” the daily reported.
The ban was imposed by Turkey’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK), the state body responsible for regulating publicly funded advertisements in the media. The ban also applies to Evrensel’s website.
Zarakolu’s column appeared both in the Evrensel newspaper and on the Artı Gerçek news website on May 5, drawing parallels between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was hanged by a military junta after a coup in 1960, thereby attracting the ire of President Erdoğan.
Declaring that they will object to the ban, Evrensel lawyer Devrim Avcı said: “The 45-day advertising ban is the longest ever imposed. It is not possible to explain in law such a penalty for an article written by a columnist expressing his own opinions within the scope of freedom of expression.”
President Erdoğan’s lawyer had filed a criminal complaint against Zarakolu for his column on May 6, accusing him of “instigating a military coup d’état.”
In his complaint Erdoğan claimed that Zarakolu openly threatened him with a military putsch and execution, requesting that authorities investigate and charge him with crimes against the constitutional order and the president.
Fatih Polat, editor-in-chief of the Evrensel newspaper, and Görkem Kınacı, its editor, testified on May 14 with respect to Zarakolu’s column.
Turkish authorities have been targeting journalists and members of the press due to their reports and other journalistic activities.
According to the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index in which Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 153 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 168 wanted on fabricated terrorism charges have been forced to live in exile.
The Turkish government has seized nearly 200 media outlets including the country’s largest daily as well as most popular TV networks since 2015.