Press Advertising Agency revokes Evrensel newspaper’s right to publish public ads
ARTICLE 19 and 18 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations call on the Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to withdraw without delay its alarming decision to revoke the right of independent newspaper Evrensel to receive and publish public advertisements, a vital source of financial income for the publication. The BİK has a regulatory duty to act as an independent and fair distributor of public ads, and to refrain from facilitating censorship through suppressing critical news outlets.
On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper was informed of the BİK’s decision to revoke the paper’s right to receive public ads, which was backdated to 17 July, 2022. This move was prompted by an audit into alleged bulk buying that distorted Evrensel’s distribution figures, against which measure the advertising levels are set. The right of Evrensel to receive public advertisements has been suspended since September 2019. With the latest decision, this suspended right was completely cancelled.
In its decision, the BİK stated that ‘the public ad ban on Evrensel was observed to be suspended for a full six months without break, excluding the period when such administrative monitoring was suspended due to the pandemic; therefore its right to receive public ads was revoked’. Evrensel has the right to appeal to the decision at court. Should Evrensel be removed from the BİK’s system to receive any public advertising, a new launch application process for regaining the right to public ads would take at least three years. This drawn-out process would be detrimental to the newspaper’s financial stability.
In the last three years, the International Press Institute and the undersigned press freedom organisations have repeatedly called on the BİK to withdraw the initial public ad ban for Evrensel that was initiated in September 2019. Ten members of the European Parliament had also joined the call, with a letter to then-General Director of the BİK Rıdvan Duran requesting the ban be lifted. Despite an in-person meeting with Duran in February 2020, the ad ban remained in force until this latest decision.
In a judgment issued on 10 August 2022, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that the BİK’s arbitrary and consecutive public ad bans on newspapers including Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and BirGün, violated freedom of expression and press freedom, as well as constituted evidence of the BİK acting as a tool for systematic censorship and criminalisation of news coverage in the country. The Constitutional Court’s verdict thus confirmed that the BİK lacks impartiality towards media outlets.
In recent years, media freedom has been deteriorating in Turkey. In light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, we are concerned about the state of remaining independent media outlets, and the repercussions it will have on the right to access information, crucial for the residents of Turkey, who will need to rely on the existing media outlets to make informed decisions about the elections. We are also concerned about how this will contribute to an already-shrinking civic space in the country. We once again call upon the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) in Turkey to withdraw the decision to revoke ad revenues for Evrensel.
International Press Institute (IPI)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
IPS Communication Foundation/Bianet
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)