Turkish TV Outlet Shuts as Journalists Blame Government Pressure

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A Turkish TV channel shut down weeks after its launch, a decision its journalists say was forced by pressure from government officials who didn’t like its news coverage.

Olay TV chief editor Suleyman Sarilar made a final appearance before it ended broadcast on Friday, saying the channel’s biggest shareholder decided to pull the plug amid intense pressure from the government.

Dozens of employees walked into the studio where Sarilar spoke and clapped as the screen went dark. Many of the journalists said on their social media accounts that officials didn’t like having an independent voice in a media landscape otherwise dominated by pro-government outlets.

Cavit Caglar, a former politician and the channel’s top shareholder, said he was disturbed by the favorable coverage Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party HDP enjoyed during Olay TV’s 26 days of broadcasts. The station may be relaunched with a different editorial team, Caglar told pro-government news agency DHA.

The incident highlights the gradual evolution of Turkey’s media industry, where the largest outlets that were once considered mainstream have been gradually acquired by businessmen with strong links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or his ruling AK Party.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said last year Turkey had 47 reporters under arrest, making it the second-biggest jailer of journalists worldwide after China.

Some of the journalists held are among the tens of thousands of people Turkey detained and accused of supporting a secretive religious group that Erdogan blames for orchestrating a failed 2016 coup.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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