Turkey Police Raid Erdogan Foes' Media Units Live on TVby
Police cut cables to video cameras during live broadcasts
Operation against media companies comes 4 days before election
Turkish police raided the media headquarters of a company linked to an enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cutting live broadcasts and occupying control rooms four days before elections. Shares in three public companies owned by the same group tumbled further on the Istanbul exchange.
The early-morning raids at the studios of Kanalturk and Bugun TV, broadcast by reporters on site until police unplugged their cameras, came after an Ankara prosecutor’s decision on Monday to appoint trustees to manage more than 20 companies owned by Koza-Ipek Holding. The action has erased about 1.2 billion liras ($410 million) in market value from its three listed companies: gold miner Koza Altin Isletmeleri, energy explorer Ipek Dogal Enerji and miner Koza Anadolu Metal.
Koza-Ipek is accused of financing U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who was declared the leader of a terrorist organization following a 2013 corruption probe, which Erdogan blamed on Gulen’s followers and declared a coup attempt. The most recent operation against the group has raised “new concerns for international investors,” according to Akin Tuzun, an analyst at VTB Capital in Istanbul, who predicts an increase in the risk premium on Turkish assets as a result.
“The political risks on Koza group companies were known by international investors for some time,” Tuzun said by e-mail on Wednesday. “However the latest operations, just days before the elections, raised new concerns for international investors who have been thinking recently that the political climate could improve post-elections, which appears to be a naive assumption now.”
Turkey heads to the polls this Sunday to repeat a June 7 vote that stripped the governing party, which Erdogan founded 14 years ago and led until last year, of its single-party majority in parliament. Coalition talks failed, and the repeat vote comes amid a deteriorating security situation, with fighting between Kurdish militants and state security forces, and a terror attack by Islamic State suicide bombers in Ankara on Oct. 10 that killed 102 people.
Supporters have camped out in front of Koza-Ipek’s media headquarters in Istanbul for the past two days and called the operation an attack against media freedom. Samanyolu TV, Bugun TV, Kanalturk and childrens’ channel Yumurcak TV, which are affiliated with the Gulen religious movement, have been dropped from some platforms including Digiturk, whose management was also seized by the government in 2013. Koza-Ipek also owns a national newspaper, Bugun, with circulation of about 27,000 issues a day.
Koza Altin dropped 9.2 percent to 15.80 liras at the close in Istanbul, the lowest level since Dec. 31, extending its three-day decline to 24 percent. Koza Anadolu Metal tumbled 10 percent to 1.47 liras, the lowest level since May 2000 and the worst performance on Borsa Istanbul 100 Index. Ipek Dogal Enerji plunged 10 percent to 1.74 liras, the biggest decline since a previous police raid on the group’s 23 business on Sept. 1.
Turkish stocks have lost 8.7 percent this year, heading for their biggest drop since 2013, as political uncertainty and concerns over national security compounded worries about U.S. Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase since 2006. Foreign investors have withdrawn $6.3 billion from Turkish bonds and equities in 2015, the most on record.
Most opinion polls show voter preferences little changed from June 7. Should the result bring another hung parliament, political parties will have 45 days to form a coalition government, or elections could be held again within three months.