Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN
26 February 1954
President of the Republic of Turkey, after being prime minister from 2003 to 2014
Predator since 2009
Turkey, 153rd/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Aggressive democracy
Turkey’s president does not like the media, or rather, he likes the media to be submissive and docile and to sing his praises. He persecutes critics with the help of a law under which they can be prosecuted for “insulting the president” and broad terrorism legislation that allows every kind of abuse. By various political and economic means, he also controls almost all the leading media groups (especially TV channels). The state of emergency declared in July 2016 (after a failed coup) gave him the opportunity to arrest unprecedented numbers of journalists and to close more than 100 newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations. A few courts, including the constitutional court, the court of cassation and the Council of State, have managed to put of some resistance. But the deteriorated climate encourages violence against journalists. More than 100 have been physically attacked in the past five years and one, who worked for a radio station in the city of Bursa, was killed by a listener.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: Critical journalists
Whether left-wing, pro-Kurdish, pro-Gülen, secularist or nationalist – any journalist or media outlet regarded as critical is liable to be prosecuted. Even if Turkey is no longer the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, the risk of imprisonment and the fear of having to work under judicial control or being stripped of one’s passport are still ubiquitous. Around 50 journalists were briefly arrested in 2020 in connection with their coverage of the situation of Syrian refugees at the border with Greece or the Covid-19 pandemic. Any online reporting that reflects badly on prominent people close to the government is also routinely censored. More than 1,300 links to online articles (about corruption, clientelism and the like) were blocked in 2020 by magistrates under Erdogan’s thumb.
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Denial and veiled threats
“We have never done anything against freedom of expression or media freedom. On the contrary, the press in Turkey has criticised me a great deal, me and my government, and have attacked me a great deal. And despite these attacks, we have been very patient in the way we have responded to these attacks.” (Interview for CNN on 1 April 2016).