June 4, 2013 / 1:11 PM / 5 years ago

Turkey's Garanti Bank loses customers in anti-government protest

ISTANBUL, June 4 (Reuters) - Garanti Bank, Turkey’s third-biggest lender, said on Tuesday a small number of its customers had cancelled credit cards and withdrawn savings in protest at a sister media company’s coverage of anti-government demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of people have staged protests in cities across Turkey and many have complained that domestic broadcasters and newspapers are not adequately covering their action out of fear of government reprisals.

Dogus Holding, which owns a major stake in Garanti, also controls the NTV television station, which has angered the protesters with its coverage.

Several dozen people staged a brief demonstration outside Garanti’s Istanbul headquarters on Tuesday.

“Some customers have cancelled their cards and accounts, but it has been limited,” Chief Executive Ergun Ozen told Reuters.

He said 35-40 million lira ($18.6-21.2 million) in funds had been withdrawn in the past week, from total accounts of 95 billion, while around 1,500 of Garanti’s 8.5 million credit cards had been cancelled.

In the past, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government has levied heavy tax fines and seized the assets of media firms perceived to be critical of his administration. The government has denied any political motivation in such cases.

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