Bekir Coskun, a militantly secular columnist for a Turkish mass-circulation daily, Habertürk, was sacked last month. Pressure from the government had nothing to do with it, said the newspaper’s owner: it was Mr Coskun’s “aggressive style”, which violated the newspaper’s editorial line. Oh yes, that was the problem.
A steady cull of anti-government journalists from the mainstream press has reinforced the view that Turkish PM Recep Erdogan is intolerant of criticism. There was a huge row in September last year, when Aydin Dogan, a powerful media magnate, was slapped with a huge fine for alleged tax fraud (with accrued interest, the fine stands at $3.7 billion). Mr Dogan’s leading titles have since demoted or fired some of their shrillest anti-AK hacks. Dogan-affiliated journalists say they face constant pressure to temper their copy. Mr Dogan is reportedly in talks with Rupert Murdoch, among others, to sell his media empire. (See Slog previous re Asil Nadir and his tax problems).
“Under AK [Erdogan’s uling Party] the press has been declared the enemy,” says Ferai Tinc, who runs a media watchdog. According to the International Federation of Journalists over 40 Turkish journalists are in jail and around 700 others face trial, many of them Kurds accused of spreading separatist propaganda. One, Irfan Aktan, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for quoting a rebel of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Mehmet Baransu, an investigative reporter who has exposed a string of alleged coup plots and episodes of army incompetence, has faced 40 separate court cases and received six convictions in the past 15 months.
The AK government has reneged on promises to ease tough media laws, but then reneging once he has the upper hand is a major part of Erdogan’s style.
David Cameron’s idiotic statement in favour of Turkish entry into the EU will come back to haunt him – as the Munich Agreement did Alec Douglas-Hume. And as for Hague – well, I despair. He’s clearly decided a career in consultancy, memoirs and speaking tours beckons.