English PEN has joined fellow press freedom organisations in sending an open letter to the General Director of Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK), the agency responsible for the distribution of the state advertising budget, calling for an end to the advertising ban on Evrensel.
General Director, Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK)
Merkez Efendi Mah. Mevlana Cad. No: 140/A
Toya Plaza Kat: 5 Zeytinburnu / İSTANBUL
16 March 2020
Dear Mr. Duran,
On behalf of the 24 international and local press freedom organisations and signatories to this letter, we are writing to ask that Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK) swiftly lift the advertising ban currently imposed on the newspaper Evrensel.
Evrensel has been under an advertising ban since September,2019, and if the ban remains in place for a full six months, until March 28, 2020, Evrensel faces being removed from the public advertising system for at least three years.
Such a decision
would have a devastating impact on the finances of the newspaper, threatening
its closure and weakening the diversity and pluralism of Turkey’s newspaper
In February, you met with representatives of the International Press Institute (IPI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Journalists Syndicate of Turkey (TGS), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and assured them that the ban would be lifted as soon as Evrensel made the necessary changes to their distribution system so as not to fall foul of the bulk buying rules.
Evrensel have since made the changes requested of them, but have twice had their appeals refused after new audits conducted by BIK.
BIK was given a
crucial democratic role when it was established in 1961 to provide support to
the country’s newspaper sector through the even distribution of public
advertising funds. The system has become essential to the survival of many
newspapers as the economic pressures on the print industry have grown over the
BIK’s role is therefore vital to ensure the health, diversity and plurality of Turkey’s newspaper sector. Central to that is, of course, its policy to provide support regardless of a newspaper’s editorial line. Evrensel is known for its independent reporting and has, in recent years, been targeted for judicial harassment as a consequence.
In addition to the indefinite ban, since September BIK has also issued three other limited bans on Evrensel for alleged ‘press ethics violations’. Further penalties would strongly suggest that BIK is being used to punish Evrensel for its independent reporting.
We urge you therefore to make good on your promise and to ensure the prompt lifting of the ban on Evrensel prior to the end of the six month deadline.
We also take this opportunity to urge BIK to start publishing
annual reports on the distribution of its funds that we understand amount to
450 million Turkish Lira of public funds and on the different disciplinary
measures taken against newspapers. Providing transparency on BIK’s use of
public funds would enable the public to verify that its money is used correctly
and is consistent with the principles of supporting a pluralistic and
democratic media environment.
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Civic Space Studies Association – Turkey / Sivil Alan Araştırmaları Derneği
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Journalists Union of Turkey
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)