Turkish minister tried to manipulate newspaper ads: Report
Raising more concerns over press freedom in Turkey, Cumhuriyet published what it called the transcripts of five wiretaps of Bayraktar’s conversations. AA PhotoFormer Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, who resigned from his position after the Dec. 17 graft probe, allegedly manipulated newspaper ads to “nurture” the pro-government media, according to a summary of proceedings sent to the Justice Ministry, daily Cumhuriyet reported May 28.
Raising more concerns over press freedom in Turkey, Cumhuriyet published what it called the transcripts of five wiretaps of Bayraktar’s conversations.
In the only wiretap from 2011, Bayraktar allegedly had a phone conversation with Murat Kurum, General Manager of Emlak Konut GYO, which is Turkey’s biggest real estate investment trust and a subsidiary of the Prime Ministry Housing Development Administration (TOKİ).
Kurum, as well as Bayraktar’s son, were among those detained in the scope of the Dec. 17 graft probe.
According to the transcript of a conversation on Nov. 20, 2011, Bayraktar instructed Kurum to advertise in the media outlets owned by the Albayrak Group. “They are here with me now. The Albayrak [brothers] can hear your voice. We have to nurture them, too,” Bayraktar allegedly said, while asking for a “not too big” favor.
In the second wiretap, dated Jan. 9, 2013, Bayraktar is heard again calling Kurum to ask for the “strengthening” of other pro-government media outlets, specifically naming daily Star, “with advertisements or by other means.”
When Kurum responded that they were already placing many ads in those outlets, Bayraktar allegedly said: “Those ads are routine, you’re putting them everywhere. We need to make a more positive situation with regards to [Star]. Make them stronger.”
Bayraktar is then heard explaining to Kurum that Emlak Kurum GYO should also encourage its private partners, Turkey’s largest construction contractors, to channel their ad campaigns exclusively into pro-government newspapers.
A number of Turkey’s leading construction tycoons, such as Ali Ağaoğlu, were detained as part of the second probe of the Dec. 17 corruption investigation.
Stressing that measures should be taken for the increasing of pro-government newspapers’ sales, Bayraktar allegedly asked Kurum to place an advertisement for an urban renewal project exclusively in three pro-government newspapers. “Then, let the others squeal,” he is heard saying.
In another wiretap dated June 25, 2013, Bayraktar also allegedly complained to his adviser that a local media owner “doesn’t make news as we want,” while in another transcript dated July 25, 2013, he calls a top bureaucrat from his ministry and advises him to become personally involved in a hotel project of Ferit Şahenk, the president of the Doğuş Media Group.