Turkish version available here.
ECPMF and 17 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations call on the Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to withdraw without delay its alarming decision to revoke the right of the independent Evrensel newspaper to receive public ads, a vital source of financial income for the publication. BİK has a regulatory duty to act as an independent and fair distributor of public ads, and not to facilitate censorship through suppressing critical news outlets.
On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper received BİK’s decision backdated to July 17, 2022, revoking its right to receive public ads. This move was prompted by an audit into alleged bulk buying that distorted Evrensel’s distribution figures against which measure the advertising levels are set. The right of Evrensel to receive public advertisements has been suspended since September 2019. With the latest decision, this suspended right was completely cancelled.
In its decision, the BİK stated that “the public ad ban on Evrensel was observed to be suspended for a full six months without break, excluding the period when such administrative monitoring was suspended due to the pandemic, therefore its right to receive public ads was revoked”. Evrensel has the right to appeal to the decision at court. Should Evrensel be removed from BİK’s system to receive any public advertising, a new, swiftly launched application process for re-gaining the right to public ads would take at least three years. This drawn-out process would be detrimental to the newspaper’s financial stability.
In the last three years, IPI and undersigned press freedom organisations have repeatedly called on BİK to withdraw the initial public ad ban that was initiated in September 2019 on Evrensel. Ten members of the European Parliament had also joined the call with a letter to then-General Director of BİK Rıdvan Duran requesting the ban be lifted. Despite an in person meeting with Duran in February 2020, the ad ban remained in force until this latest decision.
MFRR Coordinator, Gürkan Özturan, said:
“The long time pressure and regulatory restrictions imposed on independent media has been impacting media freedom and society’s right to access information negatively in Turkey. The latest BİK decision to revoke advertisement revenues for Evrensel is yet another example of this ongoing and increasing trend and must be revoked immediately.”
In a judgment issued on 10 August 2022, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that BİK’s arbitrary and consecutive public ad bans on newspapers including Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and BirGün, violated freedom of expression and press freedom as well as constituted and evidence of BİK acting as a tool for systematic censorship and criminalization of news coverage in the country. The Constitutional Court’s verdict thus confirmed that BİK lacks impartiality towards media outlets.
Media freedom in recent years has been deteriorating in Turkey in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, we are concerned about the state of remaining independent media outlets, the repercussions it will have on the right to access information for the residents of Turkey who will need to rely on the existing media outlets to make informed decisions in the election calendar, and how this will contribute to an already-shrinking civic space in the country. Hereby we once again call upon the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) in Turkey to withdraw the decision to revoke ad revenues for Evrensel.