Turkish gov’t imposes record number of advertising bans on opposition newspapers in 2020

Turkey’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK), the state body responsible for regulating publicly funded advertisements in the media, in 2020 imposed 88 percent of its advertising bans on BirGün, Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Korkusuz and Evrensel, all newspapers critical of the Turkish government.

According to Turkish media reports citing a blog post by media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici, BİK issued a total of 803 days of advertising bans during the year. Bildirici’s report was based on data received from the Presidential Communications Center (CİMER).

BİK was first established in 1961. In 2013 its structure was changed to enable it to impose advertising bans for violations of its regulations. It has a general assembly comprising members appointed by the government, the media industry and civil society.

“In the 2000s, the advertising bans throughout the year would not have amounted to more than 100 days,” Bildirici said.

In February 2020 five press freedom organizations including 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) called for an end to a ban on public advertising in the Evrensel and BirGün newspapers that was imposed in September 2019.

Another ban was imposed on Evrensel on June 23 over a column by Ragıp Zarakolu titled “No escape from ill fate,” the daily reported.

Zarakolu’s column appeared in both 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.

The BİA Media Monitoring Report 2020 revealed that Turkish courts handed down sentences totaling 103 years to 23 journalists last year. A total of 215 journalists and media employees were dismissed from their jobs in 2020, mainly due to pressure from government circles, the report stated.

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.”

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