The aim of the State of Emergency, declared 5 days after the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, was, in President Tayyip Erdogan’s words, “not against democracy, law and freedoms, but conversely to protect these values and strengthen them.” According to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim the State of Emergency was declared “not against the people, but against the state.” However since then many examples have shown that the practice has veered away from being against the state and has targeted “the people.” Many freedoms and “democratic values” Erdogan promised to safeguard with the State of Emergency have come under attack, including the right to unions-freedom of press, people’s right to information and the right to organise and protest have been violated in a short space of time, the two and half months since State of Emergency was declared. On 29 September our channel, IMC TV, was also affected by these violations after government passed a decree law.
IMC TV, which has become one of the most important media centers in Turkey during its five and half years of broadcasting, was closed down alongside 22 other TV and radio stations in a single day, for allegedly having “ties to terrorist organisations.” Millions watched the illegal closure of our channel live on air. For this reason there is no need to describe or recount those moments. However we’d like to reiterate that we do not accept the state’s practices against our channel; the only “crime” we have committed is reporting and producing news in accordance with the universal principles of journalism and broadcasting.
In contrast to some other channels, IMC TV since its inception, has always emphasised democracy and societal peace successfully in its broadcasts, including on 15 July. During this time it has always acted with journalistic reflexes and not prejudice or bias regardless of whichever region or political circles it has reported from or about. Our channel has distanced itself from the structural problems: nationalism, racism, sexism, militarism and statism, that dominates Turkey’s mainstream media and has foregrounded peace journalism. In contrast to this mainstream media, our channel, even during times of heavy clashes, has always chosen a broadcast line that doesn’t entrench conflict but tries to resolve it; we have tried to make this the “mainstream”.
Again in contrast to many broadcasting corporations that have kept silent as our channel was being closed, on the night of the 15 July coup attempt, we tried to report and make the voice of the street, people and civil politics heard from our station as events were developing. Furthermore, these broadcasts were made possible with our reporters putting their lives in danger, first on Ankara’s streets and then in Parliament, which was being bombed at that time. We didn’t do this to ingratiate ourselves with the government but because of our belief in the indispensability of civil politics, democratic values and journalistic values. It is for this reason that it will be impossible for a government, which claims it declared State of Emergency against the putschists, to explain both in Turkey and in the international sphere why it shut down IMC TV and similar channels.
In this sense, the state’s accusation of “having ties to terrorist organisations,” which it uses like a magic wand to legitimise all its practices, will not work either. IMC TV has always approached the Kurdish question, which it recognises as Turkey’s most serious and sensitive issue, differently to mainstream media. As with issues concerning minorities, political freedoms, women and the environment, it’s approach to the Kurdish question is dissimilar to traditional approaches that are remote to a solution. Due to this our broadcasts have always been to a higher quality and different to the mainstream media. However this broadcast has also always kept its distance from being engaged with any political party or organisation. Since the first day of our broadcast and despite the AKP’s practices in the past year surpassing even those of the 1990s and its rhetoric falling behind even that of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which denies the Kurdish question, we have never shut our screen to the governing party and always strived to be a channel where they were visible too. Therefore, just like an accusation of “cohesion” with the AKP or MHP cannot be made against us, neither can it be made about other political parties or organisations.
In this regard IMC TV has been successful in keeping its distance to each political-social group the same and has adhered to one of journalism’s fundamental principles, the principle of “contact-distance.” Moreover, there were three general elections, a local election and a presidential election during our broadcast period and not once were fined by the Supreme Election Board or the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) for “partial” reporting, unlike other channels. In fact the only channel to not be among the 19 channels fined last year by RTÜK for violating “impartiality, truth and accuracy,” was IMC TV.
For this reason it is meaningless and unethical that media organs close to the government are presenting interviews conducted by us with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) officials as accusations and reasons for our closure. The interviews were conducted with the sole aim of creating news and informing the public; even the most inept reader-viewer can comprehend this. The period that began on 28 December 2012 and was called the “resolution process,” constituted negotiations between state and PKK officials and created great hope in the public that the decades-old war would come to an end. From 2013 to mid-2015, a period of two and half years, society in Turkey experienced a period of peace for the first time in a long time. Therefore it was a journalistic responsibility to report and reflect the views of both sides to the public at a time when hopes for a resolution were high. At the same time as the state’s official and semi-official media organs were engaged in similar efforts, IMC TV only did its duty. On the other hand it is only journalists who can decide whether an incident or interview is news worthy, not governments. In this sense the reports and interviews that have been turned into accusations were news worthy according to us and were published for this reason. Another contradiction and injustice is that these reports and interviews were only turned into accusations by the government, judiciary and government media only when the conjuncture has changed and not at the time.
The only group our channel has not managed to uphold the “contact-distance” principle with is its viewers, the public. The fundamental reason our channel is being targeted by the government is due to its unparalleled broadcasts of the period of clashes beginning in July 2015. In the past year our channel has courageously reported on the numerous human rights violations primarily in Cizre and also Nusaybin, Sur, Yüksekova, Silopi, Şırnak and Idil, making them visible. Our reporters and camerawomen and men reported and broadcasted not from inside armoured vehicles and tanks but from the destroyed streets and homes of victims of the war to expose the truth in all its nakedness. The government’s discomfort is due to our success in reporting. The journalists’ duty is not to broadcast statements made by government officials but reveal the violations by government to the people. In this sense its responsibility is to the people, not the ruling party. IMC TV has fulfilled this duty successfully in a country like Turkey, where democracy has not flowered yet, and is being anti-democratically and extra-judicially silenced for this reason.
This extra-judicial practice has violated the right to expression and press freedom of 12 TV and 11 radio stations and violated the people’s right to information as well as causing victimisation that will be difficult undo. The assets of these stations have been appropriated and hundreds of journalists have been left unemployed within a week. Turkey’s democracy, which was already ailing, has fallen even weaker. Despite all this it is the responsibility of all political parties, civil society organisations and public to make sure that these illegal practices come to an end. For this reason we are reiterating our call to the government to retract these illegal practices and are appealing to all the different sections of society for solidarity.