A private Turkish TV station that aired pro-Kurdish opposition views has shut down less than a month after launch, underscoring press freedom concerns in a country often chastised by rights groups.
Olay TV, owned by businessman and former minister Cavit Caglar, began broadcasting on November 30 but was pulled off the air on Friday.
Its staff announced its closure live on air.
Caglar said he pulled out of the venture because the station’s editorial line veered too close to the pro-Kurdish opposition, while the editor claimed he had bowed to government pressure.
Executive editor Suleyman Sarilar said on air that the network had aimed to maintain equal distance from every segment in Turkey’s polarised society.
“But we have seen that we can no longer keep up with this kind of broadcasting … Cavit (Caglar) said he was under intense pressure from the government and that he cannot move forward,” he claimed.
The Olay TV broadcast stopped following Sarilar’s announcement.
Caglar said in a statement that Olay TV abandoned impartiality and was close to the line of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — accused by the government of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
“I have been active in centre-right politics and served this country. I was unsettled by the broadcasts of Olay TV’s editorial team,” he said.
He said he offered to create more balance as the channel moved “from impartial to pro-HDP broadcasting”, but his business partner rejected his ideas.
“I informed him that I would not be able to continue under those circumstances and had to leave the network,” he said.
Dozens of HDP mayors and officials have been jailed in the past year over the party’s suspected links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
‘Note the date’
One of the channel’s journalists, Duygu Demirdag, shared a video on social media where Olay TV staffers filling the newsroom were seen applauding in its final broadcast before the screen went blank.
“Today is December 25, 2020. A television station where 180 staffers and journalists work shut down,” she tweeted.
Turkey is among the world’s worst countries for jailing journalists, ranked 154 out of 180 countries ranked by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Most of Turkey’s mainstream media is owned by relatives or allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“A television station’s shutdown on its 26th day is in itself a blow dealt at freedom of the press and a new episode in stealing public’s access to news,” Utku Cakirozer, the opposition CHP party lawmaker, told AFP.
“It’s obvious that the channel’s boss made such a decision under pressure from the government.”
In 2016, authorities shut down IMC TV — which has a pro-Kurdish stance — in what was seen by activists as another casualty of a growing crackdown against the media in the wake of the failed coup attempt in that year.