How Turkish media is threatened
Daily Hürriyet (in Turkish) recently had a phenomenal letter on its first page titled, “We call on the esteemed president.” The President, of course, was Tayyip Erdoğan and the reason for the letter was Erdoğan’s recent condemnation of Hürriyet as a conspirer of a “coup” against him. The “evidence” for this heinous plot was nothing but a headline daily Hürriyet used two days before to report the death sentence given to Egypt’s overthrown president, Muhammad Morsi.
The Hürriyet headline read: “The world is in shock: Death sentence to president who was elected with 52 percent of the votes.” Any reasonable person would wonder what this headline had to do with Turkey. But for President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and their party, the “evidence” was clear: Erdoğan was elected with 52 percent of the votes in August 2014, so Hürriyet was in fact implying that the same fate awaits Erdoğan!
That is why both Davutoğlu and Erdoğan slammed Hürriyet in their rallies as a “coup conspirer.” The same line was promoted in the pro-Erdoğan media, as Hürriyet, and the Doğan Group it belongs to, was condemned as a treacherous enemy. A pro-Erdoğan “journalist” went further and vowed: “The Doğan Group will never be able to do any business as long as they are at war with the STATE.” (Capitals were in the original, and were a sign of the new state-worshipping Turkey’s Islamists developed soon after dominating the state.)
In its open letter to Erdoğan, Hürriyet, which seems to be baffled with the “coup conspiracy” it cooked up with a headline, kindly tried to explain how ridiculous this accusation is. It was so ridiculous that Erdoğan himself, in a speech right after the Morsi verdict, had emphasized that this was a punishment given to “a president elected with 52 percent of the votes.” When used by Erdoğan, this was a normal statement of fact; when used by Hürriyet, it was a big offense.
This is just one example of how independent Turkish media is threatened by the state - and the other part of the media that worships that state. One big problem is that the new Islamist masters of the state, like their Kemalists predecessors, see “threats to the regime” everywhere around them. In their deeply conspiratorial view of the world, there is a plot behind every stone, and a threat behind every criticism. Even factual news making, when it does not use the exact wording they would have used in their ideal media, becomes a sinister attack in their eyes. There is no concept of the benefit of the doubt. There is rather the unlimited benefit of political paranoia.
One wonders how independent newspapers such as Hürriyet would be able to conform to these very high standards of obedience by the new state and save themselves from being condemned and threatened as the enemy within. Apparently, they would be able to do this only by becoming replicas of daily Sabah, which is basically a propaganda outlet serving the president. In such a world, the “Turkish media” would practically cease to exist, in the liberal sense of the world, and what we would have would be just different versions of the same Pravda.
Then, it would be very hard to speak of Turkey as a “democracy,” if the term has any meaning other than putting ballots in front of society every four years – a society whose sources of information and opinion is centrally planned by an overbearing state.