The Turkish Justice Ministry has acknowledged it has no documented information in regards to bans imposed on media coverage of certain incidents since from the beginning of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) era in power.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ankara deputy Ali Haydar Hakverdi filed a parliamentary question addressed to the Justice Ministry and asked for the number of media gags and related incidents as well as related investigations and court cases from Nov. 10, 2002 to Nov. 10, 2015.
The Justice Ministry, however, said they had no information concerning the number of media gags and incidents.
“Upon examination of our records in regards to particularities you mentioned in your petition, there is no concrete information or document in the care of our Directorate General,” said Justice Ministry Director General for Penal Affairs Aytekin Sakarya in his response dated Dec. 12, 2015.
“Those who easily have broadcasting bans or secrecy decisions on whichever issue they want do not even know the number of those decisions since they are too many,” Hakverdi said in a written statement.
The CHP deputy recalled that he had filed the same question back in 2014 and then-Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had responded by saying that media gags were issued for 149 incidents from 2010 to June 2014.
“Did the data, which the state had one year ago, disappear after a year?” Hakverdi asked.
Meanwhile, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu chastised the AKP for being incapable of governing the country, citing the swift imposition of a broadcast ban following the Jan. 12 suicide bomb attack in Istanbul as evidence of such incapability.
“[…] They are imposing a broadcasting ban even before ambulances arrive on the scene” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to the fact the authorities imposed a broadcast ban on reporting on the attack, prompting television channels to halt live broadcasting from the scene although factual commentaries continued.
In the last few years, media gags have been imposed on a number of matters, including: The corruption probe of Dec. 17, 2013, which involved 53 graft suspects, including former ministers' sons, the former manager of Halkbank and a controversial Iranian-Azeri businessman; the kidnapping of 49 members of Turkey's consulate in Mosul and 31 truck drivers by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after the group seized Mosul in late June 2014; the audio recordings of a top-secret national security meeting on Syria in the offices of the Turkish foreign minister that were leaked via YouTube in March 2014; the deadly terror attack which killed 52 people in the southern town of Reyhanlı in May 2013; and a January 2014 search of two trucks – allegedly carrying weapons belonging to Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) – that were bound for Syria.