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Turkey4 July 2003

Five of businessman’s TV stations banned for a month

Reporters Without Borders today called on the National Broadcasting Council (RTÜK) to rescind a one-month ban it imposed yesterday on five TV stations owned by the family of press magnate and politician Cem Uzan for allegedly defending the family’s business interests on the air. The ban was "unfair and disproportionate," the organisation said.

The five stations - Star TV, Kanal 6, Star Max, Star 6 Heyecan TV and Footgol Star 8 TV - on 13 and 14 June broadcast a speech made by Uzan in the northwestern city of Bursa in which he criticised the energy and natural resources ministry for rescinding a contract with Cukurova and Kepez, two power companies owned by his family.

In the same speech, Uzan was also virulent in his criticism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his moderate Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP). Uzan heads a newly formed politically party called "Young" which, according to some polls, poses a potential threat to the ruling party.

The RTÜK accused the TV stations of "carrying broadcasts defending the unfair interests of their owner, their shareholders and members of the family." Under article 4 subsection (c) of the amended news media law (law 3948), in force since May 2002, this offence is punishable by a one-month broadcasting ban. The prime minister, for his part, has filed a lawsuit against Uzan accusing him of defamation.

In a letter to RTÜK president Fatih Karaca, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said: "We ask you to reverse your decision, which could be interpreted as a measure of a political nature that is punishing the news media rather than the statements made by Mr. Uzan." Ménard did acknowledge, however, that the prime minister’s lawsuit appeared to be "legitimate."

The RTÜK also asked five other television stations owned by the Uzan family group - Flash TV, Star 4, Star 5, Star 7 and New TV - and another privately-owned TV station, Habertürk, to explain their behaviour. These stations are all accused of the same offence as the other five, but they are also accusing of affront and of inciting unfair competition.

The amendments to the news media law that took effect in May 2002 have reinforced its repressive aspects and have strengthened political control of the RTÜK.

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