Turkey’s press advertisement agency sanctions daily by profiling readers - Evrensel

Turkey’s Press Advertisement Agency (BİK) sanctioned opposition daily Evrensel over records of readers, who bought more than one issue of the newspaper on daily basis, Evrensel’s editor-in-chief Fatih Polat wrote on Wednesday.

Polat said the agency had started cutting advertisements of two opposition dailies, Evrensel and Birgün, over absurd reasons since its management had been taken over by the government.

The Turkish government appointed last year İsmail Çağlar, a researcher of the government-affiliated think-tank SETA, as one of the new members of the BİK’s new general board. Çağlar is the author of a report published by SETA last year, which provided a detailed profile of foreign outlets operating in Turkey, including the backgrounds of journalists working in those organisations and their social media posts. 

Zahit Sobacı, SETA’s director of political research studies, and five advisors of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were also appointed to the BİK’s 36-member board.

Rıdvan Duran, the brother of SETA’s director Burhanettin Duran, was appointed as the head of the press advisement agency, a state body that distributes the advertisements of the public sector in the media.

“After that BİK started a process of cancelling Evrensel and Birgün’s advertisement rights by using some articles in its legislation as cover ups as if someone had pushed a button,” Polat said. 

The agency first cut advertisements to the dailies on the grounds of irregularities related to some news reports, although there were no official complaints about those reports.

Following that, the agency made an unprecedented move and started  “profiling readers who buy more than one newspaper from newspaper stands by using its staff as law enforcement officers,” Polat said. 

The agency said that some staff of the newspapers had bought more than one issue of the daily, in a recent sanction notification it sent to Evrensel. 

Polat said the agency sanctioned Evrensel for the first time on Sept. 23 last year, adding that the current law allows the institution to cut allocating state advertisements to dailies who have been sanctioned for six months. As a result, Evrensel might receive no advertisements from BİK as of March 23, Polat said. 

Most newspapers in Turkey depend on revenue from advertising that BİK allocates, especially those outside of major media conglomerates.