Which topic makes Erdoğan most furious at the media?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is constantly complaining about the media. He is always in a state of complaint. Well, which topic is it, do you think, that the prime minister is grumbling about most? When we scan all his speeches of the past six months, we see that at the top of the list of media complaints are terrorism and the Kurdish issue.
The prime minister is not happy because he cannot get the support he expects. He expresses this discontentment with a collective approach most of the time by mentioning “the media,” and to a lesser extent, adopts a discriminatory stance by saying “certain media outlets.”
Discomfort with Uludere
The biggest role in causing the prime minister’s discontent was played by the style in which the media covered the Uludere incident, in which 34 Kurdish citizens were bombed and killed by Turkish F-16s. Erdoğan, first and foremost, regards the attitudes of “certain media outlets” as contributing to the strategy launched by the “PKK-BDP and CHP to wear down the government.” (Jan. 10)
Within this framework, at almost every opportunity, he says that Uludere is being “exploited.” These proclamations of his have reached such a point that he has made the accusation, “In the media, there are vultures who conduct campaigns over the dead.” (May 27)
Also with regard to this, the prime minister criticizes the media for not covering the PKK’s terrorist acts adequately: “Printed and visual media, why are you silent? Why don’t you talk about this? Where are your tears; why didn’t you shed any tears?” (Jan. 24)
‘Talking to Kandil an achievement’
This pattern of accusing the media is being repeated regularly from different angles. In some cases, the prime minister accuses the media of “not asking the correct question” (May 27), in other cases of “providing oxygen for terrorism,” and of “personally conducting the operations of different centers, different circles.” (May 20)
One theme Erdoğan frequently returns to in his accusations, especially recently, is that the media does not stand up for the police and military martyrs: “The feelings of the parents of the martyrs are not being shared. This has not been done in Turkey; the institution of politics and the media did not do it.” (June 6)
An interesting point is that Erdoğan often presents himself as a prime minister who is not adequately supported by his own country’s press in the fight against terrorism, one who is left almost alone. According to him, there is a “media that does not show sensitivity despite all the reminders.” (April 28)
“Unfortunately, Turkey was not able to demonstrate a harmonious stance on the topic of showing the PKK’s intentions. The politicians, and also the media, were not able to demonstrate [such a stance].” (May 20)
Indeed, when talking about the Kurdish issue, we have to emphasize that those columnists who take a different line than his own, and those “members of the media who consider it an achievement to talk to the terrorist leaders at Kandil [Mountain],” stand out as an open file in the mind of the prime minister. These writers, the prime minister claims, “cannot even be neutral between the state and the PKK; they, intentionally or unintentionally, support the terror organization.” (June 10)
Another point worthy of highlighting is that Erdoğan has begun to partially blame the media for the deadlock in this area by saying, “Terror cannot be solved when this attitude exists on the part of the media.” (May 29)
The prime minister also has difficulties with media bosses and editors-in-chief: “We made a call to the media; we said, ‘please take into account the nation’s sensitivities around issues such as terrorism.’ We met with bosses and editors-in-chief. Unfortunately, again we were not able to find adequate support.” (June 10)
Why is the prime minister complaining so much?
There is an ironic side to the fact that Erdoğan is complaining about the media to this extent while he is also generally accepted as the prime minister who has received the widest support from the media in the entirety of our country’s multi-party era.
One essential reason for this is the prime minister’s wish to see everyone in the media taking the same position that he does on the Kurdish issue and unite under the same national stance. While he did not make a big deal of journalists visiting Kandil in the past, now, he makes a big deal out of it. At the same time, we may also add to the equation the fact that terrorism and the Kurdish issue are maybe the issues that have constrained him most as prime minister.
However, apart from these factors, these complaints are also probably a reflection of the general pattern of complaining about the media embedded in the prime minister’s role. It could be that the drive to showdowns with the media, which goes far back into the past, and has never been eliminated, is playing a role in here.
Yet another factor is that the prime minister positions the media as his political rival and defines it as a platform for confrontation which he uses to feed his own political stance.
However, the prime minister seems to enjoy the feeling of overloading or provoking journalists. We should accept this as an integral part of his personality. We should be appalled if he were to stop complaining about the media.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on June 30. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.