Independent media?

Freedom of the press? I don’t think that’s really the issue these days. There’s a sort of war going on between Dogan, owner of the biggest media-group, and Prime Minister Erdogan. Dogan papers (which are all the big ones, like Sabah, Hürriyet, Radikal, and many more) have devoted a lot of space recently to a corruption scandal at Deniz Feneri, a conservative aid organisation in Germany with Turkish roots. They are accused of illegal diversion of donations and are currently facing prosecution in Germany. Turkish newspapers also claim that part of the money from Deniz Feneri ended up at Erdogan’s ruling party, the AKP, which Erdogan of course denies. The interesting thing is, Erdogan says Dogan newspapers are only giving the issue such widespread coverage because other parts of the Dogan group, for example their construction and hotel divisions, recently did not get government approval for certain investments. They want to get back at the AKP, says Erdogan, hence what he calls a ‘smear campaign’. Erdogan is putting pressure on Dogan to reveal his hidden agenda.
Now some people are turning the whole dispute into a press freedom issue. Now also the IPI, International Press Institute, has become involved. They insist the media ‘are not obliged to justify their reasons for reporting on an issue of public importance’. True. But then they add that the issue ‘raises serious doubts about the Turkish government’s commitment to media independence’. This made me laugh out loud. You will never hear me say that Erdogan is the champion of supporting independent media, but neither are the Dogan-owned newspapers. They are not published out of a passion for high quality journalism, but out of a passion for business. Dogan’s newspapers are used as tools in his business empire, and that they are now being defended in a quarrel about ‘independent press’ is absolutely hilarious. There’s quite simply a power struggle going on, and the boys involved in it should stop. If the AKP is not guilty of involvement in any Deniz Feneri scandal, then they have nothing to worry about and the truth will clear them. If Dogan is really conducting a smear campaign against the AKP for business reasons, then I hope some journalist will get to that truth with some good investigative journalism. Whether we could then read about it in any Dogan newspaper remains to be seen.

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