Doğan media group sale completes government control of Turkish media

Yesterday’s announced sale of Turkey’s biggest media group, Doğan Media Company, to a pro-government conglomerate, Demirören Holding, confirms the death of media pluralism in Turkey, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

Doğan was the only remaining media group not to have been brought under the Turkish government’s control and its sale to Demirören marks the end of an era.

Its leading media outlets include the daily Hürriyet, the 24-hour news channel CNN Türk (a joint venture with CNN), the news agency DHA, the English-language Hürriyet Daily News, the TV channel Kanal D and the tabloid Posta. Many of the group’s journalists are expected to be laid off.

“This sale means the death of pluralism and independent journalism in Turkey’s mainstream media,” said Erol Önderoğlu, RSF’s Turkey representative. “The government now has complete control of the media in the run-up to general elections in 2019. Amid an unprecedented crackdown on civil society and the political opposition, only a handful of low-circulation newspapers still offer an alternative to the government’s propaganda.”

As shown by the "Media Ownership Monitor" carried out in recent years by RSF and the news website Bianet, 80% of the Turkish media landscape was already affiliated, politically or financially, to the government. After the sale of the Doğan group’s outlets, nine of the ten most-watched TV channels and nine of the ten most-read national dailies will be owned by pro-government businessmen.

Under pressure, the Doğan group already sold the prestigious daily Milliyet to Demirören in 2011. Once seen as one of the pillars of independent journalism, Milliyet has since then undergone a complete transformation and is now an integral part of the government propaganda apparatus. The Doğan group’s other outlets had meanwhile significantly toned down their criticism of the government.

Demirören Holding’s owner, Erdoğan Demirören, is well known for his links with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In 2003, when he was prime minister, Erdoğan was a witness at the marriage of one of the industrialist’s sons and fellow shareholders.

In a telephone conversation recording leaked in 2014, Prime Minister Erdoğan was heard scolding Demirören for allowing Milliyet to publish revelations about peace talks between the government and Kurdish rebels led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Amid sobs, Demirören begged for forgiveness and promised to deal ruthlessly with those responsible.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and the country now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists detained.

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Updated on 22.03.2018