Turkey: Insiders reveal how government controls newsrooms

Turkey: Insiders reveal how government controls newsrooms
Update: 31 August 2022 20:18
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A special report by Reuters news agency showed how government commands Turkey’s mainstream media

Turkish mainstream media has become a tight chain of command of government-approved headlines, front pages and topics of TV debate under the administration of President Tayyip Erdogan, Reuters reported

The news agency portrayed an industry that was bent to the will of  Erdogan due to government pressure and self-censorship, after “interviews with dozens of sources in the media, government officials and regulators.”

When major news breaks that could bring trouble for Erdogan or his government – especially events relating to the economy or the military – Fahrettin Altun, Communication Director of the Presidency routinely contacts editors and senior correspondents to set out a coverage plan, Reuters cited an insider as saying, and gave two examples of this censorship. 

The first was the silence of Turkish media 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 not to report this until the government says so.

"Thirty long hours we were waiting for a green light regarding coverage," said a veteran editor at state-owned broadcaster TRT. 

Another crisis that Erdogan faced was an airstrike in Northwest Syria, where Russian jets were operating at the time, that killed more than 30 Turkish soldiers. 

It was the deadliest attack on Turkey's armed forces in three decades, but the newsrooms did not cover the attack, after a request from the Communication Directorate, Reuters said, based on information from three people with knowledge of the matter.

Reuters claimed that state advertising revenue was also used as a way to reward or punish the media. The government funneled the ads largely to pro-government publications via Press Advertising Institute (BIK) according to a Reuters examination of data.

Conversely, government-appointed regulators directed penalties for breaching Turkey's media code almost exclusively to independent or opposition news providers, a Reuters review of these penalties showed.

In 2019 and 2020 - the most recent years for which full and detailed figures were available - articles about corruption were judged by the Institute to be "against public ethics" or to "generate misperception," as were pieces that criticized the government.