HDP's letter to CNN

To Whom It May Concern,

This is a letter written on behalf of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – one of the parliamentary parties of the Republic of Turkey – on a situation, we think is closely concerning the CNN as a reputable international media institution.

Based on your news and analysis we know that in the last 18 months you have been closely following the developments in Turkey. You too are well aware of the fact that President Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party in the government, have been aiming to silence democratic opposition in the country since the June 7 elections in 2015.

It has been glaringly obvious that Erdoğan sees the coup attempt of July the 15th 2016 not as an opportunity to reinforce democracy in Turkey, but as an opportunity to establish his totalitarian and authoritarian regime. In particular, by bypassing the parliament and ruling by decrees, the government conducted a massive purge against media of all sorts, and a great number of printed and digital media as well as television and radio channels were closed down.

The decree of July the 27th 2016 brought about the closures of 3 news agencies, 16 TV & 23 radio channels, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses. On 28th of September the licenses of 12 TV and 11 radio channels, broadcasting both in Kurdish and Turkish were revoked, based on the same decree. The last decree -on October 29th- ruled the closures of a further 15 newspapers, news agencies, websites and magazines again both in Kurdish and Turkish.

Shutting down media organizations constitutes a heavy form of repression and prohibition against all political parties, non- governmental organizations and citizens that oppose the government. This is nothing but an open breach of universal rights and freedoms, such as right to information and freedom of thought & expression. You too know that Turkey is now one of the leading countries in the international indexes on the breaches of the press freedom, thanks to these practices of Erdoğan-AKP government.

Actions by Erdoğan-AKP government are not limited to prohibitions. The government has been using economic means to pressure media institutions that do not follow the line, and thus preventing government opponents to express their opinions on these media channels.

Sadly, we have to say that CNN Türk TV channel, instead of resisting these pressures, adhering to the universal principals of press freedom and ethics, defending the freedom of thought and expression and protecting the right of opposition to its opinion, has chosen to broadcast in line with Erdoğan’s directives. ‘The right to reply’, one of the media’s most basic universal ethical principles, is systematically ignored by the executives of the channel. The most fundamental ethical principles are pushed aside during the news programs and panel discussions; instead Erdoğan-AKP’s annihilation campaign against our party and all other democratic opposition is supported.

Besides the fact that we are discriminated against and that we are not allowed to use our right to respond and correction on the misleading and false news items about ourselves during the news programs, we face an even graver problem in panel discussion programs on this channel. On such programs during which our party is accused of unsubstantiated allegations, defamed and libeled against regularly by pro government panelists, nobody is invited to represent our party. To make matters worse, our written and verbal appeals to reply those allegations are consistently refused since June 2015.

A recent example is a program that focused on our party on November 7, 2016. During that program, our party spokesperson and MP for Kars district Mr. Ayhan Bilgen called the channel, and made an attempt to use our right to reply. He was refused by CNN Türk executives on the grounds that the channel “did not get any phone connections” during the program. But later during the same program an MP for the government party AKP called in and was allowed to talk. This is only one of the many examples.

All the aforementioned breaches of universal principles of free media are done under the brand of the CNN, thus using your good name and international reputation. Therefore, we would like to ask you, the executives of CNN, a media institution which has a hard earned name around the world on its reporting and analysis: Are you aware that the basic ethical principles of media are openly breached by CNN Türk? If you are aware, are you condoning these practices? Do you have similar practices in your national and international broadcast?

We kindly request you to share with us and with the public your opinions on CNN Türk’s mentioned policies that in no way can comply with the press ethics, press freedom or the principles of decent broadcasting. 

Best regards,

Saruhan Oluç
Peoples’ Democratic Party Vice Co-Chair
21 November 2016