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Turkish media silenced on graft

November 26, 2014

A Turkish court has banned reporting on a parliamentary probe into corruption allegations against four ex-ministers in Recep Tayyip Erdogan's previous cabinet. Turkey's opposition says the move protects "thieves."

https://p.dw.com/p/1DuH0

Turkey's Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) told Turkey's media on Wednesday that they were banned from reporting on a parliamentary inquiry into corruption allegations against four former ministers.

Media were also told that they face penalties for violating the prohibition and that the prohibition remained in place until December 27.

In a statement on its website, the RTUK said the ban was necessary because some media reports had "violated the confidentiality of the investigation and the principle of presumption of innocence."

Scores detained last year

Last December, police investigating illegal building permits awarded in Istanbul detained scores of suspects.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister at the time of the arrests and then the winner of Turkey's presidential election in August, has repeatedly claimed that the parliamentary probe was part of an attempted "judicial coup" by the US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The Islamic cleric has denied involvement.

The interior, environment and economy ministers - respectively: Muammer Guler, Erdogan Bayraktar and Zafer Caglayan - stepped down in December 2013 after police rounded up their sons on charges of bribery linked to construction projects and illicit money transfers to neighboring Iran.

As prime minister at the time, Erdogan also removed from his cabinet the-then EU affairs minister Egemen Bagis.

Smuggled gold?

Investigators alleged that Caglayan, for example, took a 210,000-euro Patek Philippe watch to facilitate smuggling of gold to Iran in breach of international sanctions imposed over its controversial nuclear program.

He paid a fine of 250,000 Turkish liras ($110,000/90,000 euros) for "violating the customs and import regulations," the state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Monday. Prosecutors have since dropped the charges against the 53 individuals named, but the commission of inquiry is still set to carry out its probe.

'Protecting thieves'

Turkish courts frequently block coverage of controversial issues. In July, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said courts issued 150 gag orders in four years.

Officials say the latest commission, however, has failed to summon the suspects and witnesses involved in the corruption investigation to give their testimonies, and accuse members of parliament of seeking the ban for their own personal and professional reasons.

The Turkish Journalists' Association has called the ban censorship.

Erdogan lässt Dutzende Polizisten festnehmen
In the summer, the government ordered the arrests of several investigating officersImage: O.Kose/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu publicly accused parliament speaker Cemil Cicek of asking for the ban, though the head of the commission, dominated by Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, said that he had called for the ban.

"Since when has parliament taken the role of protecting thieves?" Kilicdaroglu said on Wednesday.

Newspapers to defy ban

Some left-leaning media have vowed to defy the ban. The newspaper Cumhuriyet has promised "twice as much news."

Erdogan, now the head of state, has recently found himself in hot water over comments that many took as being anti-feminist.

Turkey's successor regime, still very loyal to its former prime minister, has sought to expand the government's policing powers.

mkg/ (Reuters, AFP)

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