We have spoken with Mustafa Sönmez about ownership of media in Turkey in these days as trustee was appointed to Koza İpek Holding which incorporates Kanaltürk and Bugün TV channels, police broke into İpek Media building, journalists have been detained, and broadcasts have been shut down.
Sönmez mapping ownership of media in Turkey has talked over transformation of media ownership during Justice and Development Party (AKP) governorship and impact of this process on media.
Here are Sönmez's remarks:
History of media ownership in Turkey
Media ownership in Turkey hasn't always been like this. Political players get directly involved in media ownership during AKP governorship as of 2002. Earlier, political players weren't that active in media. Those who have comprehended importance of media and have the eagerness to form a new regime have put more emphasis on media ownership.
Shaping by means of TMSF
Sabah and Uzan group along with some TV channels were transferred in 2001 crisis to Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) of the banks they siphoned. When TMSF put them on the market, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped in. Sabah and ATV have directly been debited to Erdoğan's groom, Çalık.
Çukurova Group's incorporations Akşam, SHOW TV, Digitürk as well were given to figures Erdoğan pointed. Akşam was sold to Ethem Sancak, Digitürk to a Qatari group, and SHOW TV to Ciner who has paid homage to Erdoğan.
The community purchased Kanaltürk from Tuncay Özkan before falling out with AKP, published Bugün newspaper, founded Bugün TV.
Media could never become a financial sector in which people can make money. Media owners were holding this power to derive benefits by taking advantage of exterior economy. Gülen Community and AKP have shown interest in this sector at the risk of loss because of its power of manipulation.
There are five sets of media in Turkey:
- Capitals having an organic relation with AKP. Akşam, Yeni Şafak, Star, Yeni Akit. Sabah and ATV dubbed "pool media". Even state channel TRT and state-run Anadolu news Agency may be considered in this set.
- İpek and Zaman group which has an organic relation with the community before the trustee.
- The ones who have paid homage to AKP despite not having an organic relation. Those are Ciner, NTV and Şahenk, and Demirören group with Milliyet and Vatan.
- There is Doğan Group resisting against AKP.
- The fifth set is composed of outlets such as Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, BirGün, Aydınlık, Evrensel, Hayat TV, İMC TV, Özgür Gündem/DİHA which aren't related to political groups but have a certain political stance.We can refer to them as opposition set. We may also include websites like bianet, digital and social media in this set.
We understand by sound recordings that Sabah and ATV were debited to [Ahmet] Çalık. Later on, Çalık wanted to leave for a reason we don't know. We understand by the instruction in the recordings that [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan said "Form a pool, you all put some money and let things run".
Media sector and freedom of expression
At this atmosphere in which majority of media pay homage to the government, employees are being left with the dilemma of being a foot soldier or being excluded from those groups.
No one can say "I write as I wish". They may at the very most remain in engaged media by resorting to self-censor. The others have already become foot soldiers.
Newspapers are published with articles written in accordance with [Presidential] Palace's instructions. Thus, we cannot talk about liberty of the press or journalists. This doesn't affect journalists only but readers as well. Audience willing to receive news are being deprived of it and tried to be believed into "something".
Media ownership that transforms over 13 years
As AKP came to power, Doğan Group pursued "wait and see" strategy and didn't hold a stance against AKP.
Until 2007, AKP too was implementing "civilization", and "democratization" strategy. However, after 2007 the regime started its moves of eradicating all potential enemies. Ergenekon, Balyoz, Oda TV and Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) operations ran these moves.
Certain groups backed AKP in this period. AKP has showed its true colors when it said "I am shifting from assistant mastership to mastership" and steered for dictatorship. Especially Gezi protest in 2013 has revealed its colors. Certain parts of media have awakened and started to not pay homage. Split with the community has begun at this stage.
As for AKP, media has always been a mean to "gain consent from masses", receive approval during establishing the regime, extending its electorates and use them as human shields. Today, it cannot tolerate even the lean criticisms of the community. (EA/TK)
* The Gülen movement is a transnational religious and social movement led by US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen. The movement The Turkish Authorities refer to the movement as the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETO) due to charges of wiretapping high-ranking authorities and establishing a parallel state by means of infiltrating important state institutions such as judiciary, security deparment, and media.
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