Turkey has ordered the closure of 20 television and radio stations on charges they spread “terrorist propaganda”, adding to fears that emergency rule is being used to stifle the media.
An official at the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the state watchdog, confirmed 20 stations were being closed.
Among the shuttered television channels are Govend TV, which plays folk music, and Zarok TV, the first Kurdish children’s channel. The channels stopped broadcasting on Wednesday night and they have been removed from the TURKSAT satellite, an official in the Kurdish-majority southeastern city of Diyarbakir told AFP.
The decision also shut 11 radio stations for harming national security, Aktan said.
The banned channels are owned or operated by Kurds or the Alevi religious minority, according to Hamza Aktan, news editor at IMC TV, a news broadcaster slated for closure. He cited a copy of the decision obtained by his channel, which was based on powers given the government in a decree issued in July.
“This has nothing to do with the coup. It is an effort to silence the last independent media covering the Kurdish issue and violations committed by the state,” Aktan told Reuters.
IMC has aired reports looking at security forces’ conduct during 14 months of military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has killed thousands.
“Turkey is targeting a wide swath of cultural and political expression by shuttering minority broadcasters,” Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists said. “When the government sees even children’s programming as a threat to national security, it is clearly abusing its emergency powers.”
Aktan and other IMC staff continued airing segments on Friday while waiting for police to arrive at their offices. Other stations on the closure list were raided and sealed off on Thursday, newspapers and CPJ said.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants a three-month state of emergency, imposed after a failed coup attempt in July, to be prolonged past October so authorities can eradicate the threat posed by a religious movement blamed for the attempt, as well as Kurdish militants who have waged a 32-year insurgency.
Erdogan argues the state of emergency is helping authorities swiftly root out supporters of the military uprising by bypassing parliament to enact laws and suspend rights.
Turkey holds U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen responsible for orchestrating the coup in which 240 soldiers, police and civilians were killed trying to stop rogue troops who had commandeered fighter jets and tanks to bomb parliament and shoot protesters. Another 100 people behind the putsch were killed.
Turkish authorities have suspended 1,500 prison personnel and guards over links with Gulen, justice minister Bekir Bozdag said.
Speaking at an event in the Turkish capital, Bozdag said the prison personnel and guards were temporarily suspended to remove individuals linked to the cleric in Turkish prisons, but could be sacked if concrete links were found.
Some 100,000 state employees suspected of links with the Gulen movement have been purged, and 32,000 people are in jail for their alleged role in the coup. Gulen denies involvement.