Agencies leave Press Council in protest of Ekşi

November 06, 2010, Saturday/ 17:44:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
A number of media groups yesterday announced that they would be canceling their membership in the Press Council, in protest of the refusal of its president to resign from office, after an insult in his column against the government last week sparked widespread public reactions and anger.

The Press Council on Wednesday convened to discuss the situation of former Hürriyet columnist Oktay Ekşi, who resigned earlier this week in the face of mounting pressure over an article in which he wrote disparaging remarks against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the members of his Cabinet. The council, which is coincidentally headed by Ekşi, decided to issue an official reprimand to Ekşi but also ruled that he can retain his position as head of the council.

The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) announced its withdrawal from the council, as did the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group. A statement issued by TRT said Ekşi had breached the principles of professional journalism but remained council president, in turn damaging the reputation of the council, which, TRT adds, has had questionable impartiality for a long time. It said the council, which claims to ensure journalistic ethics, cannot serve as such in its current structure. The TRT said continuing its membership in this body would hurt the institution’s reputation and announced it will be withdrawing from membership until the Press Council is restructured to serve the purpose for which it was founded.

Another person who resigned was the representative of the Anatolia news agency, Sait Yüce, who was a board member of the Press Council. Yüce said in his resignation that he could not continue his membership because he was at odds with the council decision that allows Ekşi to continue his presidency. He said the decision was tantamount to a vote of confidence for Ekşi.

Another condemnation came from Ünal Türkeş, head of the Muğla Journalists’ Association. In a statement issued yesterday, Tepki said it was impossible to approve of the column written by Ekşi, who has been considered a warhorse of journalism for the past 50 years. He said: “I cannot respect a veteran journalist who would write that article. Even someone who is new in the profession wouldn’t have such audacity. There is nothing forgivable about those unethical words.”

Türkeş also said Ekşi had to resign from his post as president of the Press Council.

Ekşi, in an article titled “What we said wasn’t nearly enough,” published on Oct. 28, used the phrase “having the mindset that would sell their own mothers,” referring to the government. The article was about the environmental damage caused by dams in the İkizdere Valley, a green area of the Black Sea region declared a conservation site by many international environmental watchdogs. The next day, he wrote another column titled “We might have gone overboard” in which he apologized for his remarks but still had to resign when his apology was not accepted.

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