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Turkish media banned from reporting on Mosul hostage crisis

A Turkish court followed up on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s urging of the media not to report and comment on the Mosul hostage crisis, and decreed a gag order until the diplomats are freed.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR3U7QA

On June 15, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the media not to write or talk about the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which seized Turkey’s consulate on June 11 in Mosul, in northern Iraq, taking all 49 consulate workers hostage, including the consul general. Erdogan claimed that the media’s reporting puts the hostages’ lives at risk. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc followed up on this warning the next day urging the media not to provoke ISIS with remarks. The Turkish Foreign Ministry even stated that those taken by ISIS are “not hostages,” but “Turkish citizens taken to an unknown location.” In line with heavy pressure to silence the media on the situation, an Ankara court issued on June 16 a gag order ruling that “all kinds of print, visual and Internet media are banned from writing and commenting on the situation” until the Turkish citizens in the hands of ISIS are safely rescued. And Turkey’s Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTUK) delivered the court’s decision to all media executives early June 17, saying the ban was effective immediately.

While the Turkish media started obeying the court order, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) filed an appeal on June 17 — the same day the media ban took effect — that there should be no state-imposed censorship on covering the ISIS developments in Iraq and Turkey’s surroundings. Aykan Erdemir, CHP deputy from Bursa, however, sounding pessimistic, said the challenge is not likely to reverse the decision. “This court decision is a politically motivated one where the government solely aims to manage the perceptions of our people in Turkey. Yet, this approach promises to cause our country more problems in the medium and long term,” he told Al-Monitor.

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