The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists and media executives, is deeply concerned about an ongoing state advertising ban imposed on two of Turkey’s main remaining independent newspapers.

Evrensel and BirGün newspapers are four months into an indefinite ban imposed by the state advertising agency, BIK, and they risk being excluded from public sector advertising should the ban last for six months.

BIK is responsible for distributing the public sector advertising budget to Turkey’s media in proportion to distribution figures. This advertising revenue is crucial for the survival of the struggling independent media sector.

The bans have been justified on what appear to be largely spurious and arbitrary grounds. Evrensel is accused of bulk purchasing following a campaign to encourage readers to buy more than one copy of a newspaper a day, and BirGün is accused of failing to properly cite and credit articles.

BIK had also imposed a limited 17-day ban on the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet in September for “belittling” Turkey’s military operations in Syria. The ban has since been lifted.

Rıdvan Duran, who was appointed chair of BIK’s board in August 2019, has agreed to meet with IPI and representatives of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) and Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday, February 6. The purpose of the meeting will be to start a dialogue with the authorities on the criteria used to distribute state advertising to media.

“We’re looking forward to meeting with BIK and to seeing a swift lifting of the bans”, Oliver Money-Kyrle, IPI Turkey programme manager, said. “A permanent ban could cripple the independent newspaper sector and further damage Turkey’s democracy.”

Following the meeting, IPI will hold a joint press conference on February 7 (11:00 local time) at TGS Akademi with Evrensel and BirGün’s executives to brief the media and public on the findings of the meeting and ongoing embargo on both newspapers.