When President Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law suddenly quit as finance minister in late 2020, four staff in Turkey’s leading newsrooms said they received a clear direction from their managers: don’t report this until the government says so.
The resignation of Berat Albayrak, which he announced in a Sunday evening Instagram post, was reported by international and independent Turkish news outlets. The lira soared on hopes of a new direction for the beleaguered economy.
But for more than 24 hours, the pro-government TV stations and newspapers that dominate the country’s media landscape stayed virtually silent about the most dramatic rift in Erdogan’s inner circle in his nearly two decades in power.
The episode illustrates how the Turkish mainstream media, once a more lively clash of ideas, has become a tight chain of command of government-approved headlines, front pages and topics of TV debate. Interviews with dozens of sources in the media, government officials and regulators portray an industry that has fallen in line with other formerly independent institutions that Erdogan has bent to his will, including, his critics say, the judiciary, military, central bank and large parts of the education system. Government pressure and media self-censorship share the blame, according to the people interviewed by Reuters.
Directions to newsrooms often come from officials in the government’s Directorate of Communications, which handles media relations, more than a dozen industry insiders told Reuters. The directorate is an Erdogan creation, employing some 1,500 people and headquartered in a tower block in Ankara. It is headed by a former academic, Fahrettin Altun. [Continue reading…]