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    Turkey’s Dogan says ban “an infringement against press freedom”

    Hürriyet Daily News
    22.04.2009 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    ISTANBUL - A ban on the entry of fuel retailer Petrol Ofisi into state tenders, expanded to include all companies under the umbrella of Dogan Holding, is an assault on press freedom, the company charged in a statement Tuesday.

    On Monday the government issued a one-year ban on the fuel retailer division of Dogan Holding for alleged irregularities in fuel sales to a state power company.


    Tuesday, it emerged that not just the fuel company will be subject to the ban, but all affiliated companies including Dogan Media Group, Turkey's largest news company which publishes Hurriyet Daily News, its Turkish language parent and five other newspapers. DMG also owns three television channels and significant Internet operations.


    Dogan said in a statement issued that it will appeal the ban, which follows a tax levy against its media division of more than $500 million for allegedly carrying an $18 million tax payment due in late 2007 into 2008.

    The suppression and destruction campaign started against the Dogan Group had reached to "an alarming extent" when the principles of the free market economy considered with the recent ban on entering public tenders, Nebil Ilseven, General Coordinator said in the statement.


    "These penalty implementations are basically the result of the uneasiness caused by the publications of Dogan Group. The suppression attempts which increased by the news stories on the Deniz Feneri scandal had reached its peak with the unfair tax levies. Those tax fines that we cannot make further comment on as the legal process is underway, are accepted by the international community as an attempt to suppress press freedom," Ilseven said.

    “This campaign of intimidation will not change the line of our publications,” Ilseven said, adding the company will take the issue to court.


    The tax skirmish, also currently on appeal followed harsh criticism from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has called on supporters not to buy the group's newspapers after the group’s coverage on a corruption scandal that allegedly spread into government officials.

    "We believe that our media companies will not be in a hostile mood and will not make concessions from the principles and the implementations of the free press," the statement added.


    Turkey's biggest fuel retailer Petrol Ofisi will appeal a one-year ban from public tenders for alleged irregularities, the company said earlier on Tuesday.

    "Regarding the said suspension from public tenders, we are using all methods to protect our legal rights," Petrol Ofisi said in a statement sent to the Istanbul Stock Exchange yesterday, adding it will appeal to the ban.


    According to allegations, Petrol Ofisi delivered fuel oil with higher than agreed levels of sulphur to a state-owned power plant. Petrol Ofisi, co-owned by Dogan Holding and Austria's OMV, said it had met tender conditions and delivered services "without flaw and on time."


    Following news stories claiming that the sulfur emission from Fuel Oil 6 used at the Ambarli power plant was threatening human and environmental health, the Electricity Generation Inc Co, or EUAS, decided Fuel Oil 5 should be utilized at the station.


    Within the EUAS’s call, all technical changes in the specifications were completed to enable the power plant to use Fuel Oil 5 and two tenders were held to purchase the fuel type.


    The first tender was in March 2008 for 500,000 tons of Fuel Oil 5, the second was in December for 350,000 tons. Petrol Ofisi was the only participant in both tenders.


    The Energy Ministry received a notification afterwards claiming that the fuel oil received was not adequate to the specifications and caused air pollution.


    Following the notice, ministry inspectors began their investigation and concluded that the claim was correct. An inquiry was later launched.


    The result of the inquiry revealed that instead of the required Fuel Oil 5, high-sulfurous Fuel Oil 6 had been delivered to the Ambarli plant. The inquiry also said Petrol Ofisi "obstructed other companies that wanted to participate in the tenders.”


    Daily News is a Dogan Media Group publication.


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