We are passing through most interesting days as far as the history of the media and politics goes. Turkey is facing one of its biggest economic and foreign policy crises of its history. In this period in which lively social debate and objections are called for, the media, 90% of which has been made pro-government, and the opposition are shrouded in a silence and torpor not readily encountered in any other period or any country. The media has even ignored the horrific increase in exchange rates in a blackout redolent of dystopias. Essentially, in the ongoing political crisis with the USA that is triggering the foreign exchange crisis, the pro-regime media has shirked from informing its readers apart from official pronouncements and reports replete with heroics. The Turkish people have remained uninformed of developments that may impoverish them and cause the country’s economy to collapse and are leading the country to a totally new transformational threshold in the international arena.
The regime media is also assigning all diverging views in this crisis to the “enemy” category. Newspapers and TV stations have preferred blackout and government propaganda to imparting information about the causes, effects and results of the crisis and potential orientations. The Turkish public is neither able to obtain objective news about the Reverend Brunson case that has triggered the crisis, nor has it been able to access any information about the contents of the negotiations being held in the USA. The abrupt removal of Hürriyet Washington representative Cansu Çamlıbel’s report containing important information about the negotiations between Turkey and the USA from the paper’s website came as a striking indicator of the dimensions of the censorship.
If you were a newspaper all over
President Erdoğan’s article in the New York Times was published in just such an environment of blackout. However, in September 2014 Erdoğan harshly rebuked the New York Times for the reports it carried on Islamic State’s petrol trading through Turkey and declined a request for an interview. In 2015, moreover, Erdoğan described similar reports by the New York Times as “impertinence, infamy and baseness” and said, “You would achieve not a jot if you were a newspaper all over and emitted rancour from all over.”
By writing an article for the New York Times for which he had harsh words in past years, Erdoğan was aiming to get his position across to American and international public opinion. This is undoubtedly global propaganda activity, but, at the same time, was indicative of the extent of the credibility problem he is facing at home and abroad.
The pressure, censorship and self-censorship affecting the Turkish media is of a severity incomparable with any country in the world. Western media outlets are undergoing a credibility crisis under prompting by populist governments and due to their own structural problems. Conversely, the Turkish media has finally reached the point of existence or non-existence. The most recent crisis has pointed to the disappearance of a media that provides the people with minimal information. Ninety per cent of media outlets have been turned into propaganda bulletins. This is precisely why Erdoğan, to enable him to make his voice heard to the world, chose to write an article in an America newspaper that he has in the past spoken harshly of and equated with anti-Turkishness.
They criticise Trump
The New York Times, in which Erdoğan chose to write the article, is known for its critical stance towards Trump. New York Times’ publisher A. G. Sulzberger held a meeting with Trump and asked him to stop calling journalists enemies of the people. The steps that Trump has taken in the Turkey crisis are frequently criticised in the American media which, as opposed to the Turkish media, does not remain silent in the face of its own government. So much so that the Anadolu Agency (AA) provides coverage of this criticism in the US media. In the most recent report provided by AA, quotations were made from articles by US media outlets criticising Trump’s additional tariffs on Turkey. According to the report, while CNN criticised the inexplicability of Trump’s additional tariff decision in national security terms, the Washington Post wrote that this decision would achieve nothing apart from negatively affecting relations. Never mind the impossibility of similar articles now being published in the mainstream Turkish media, just imagine the fate that would befall that paper if an article by Trump accusing the Erdoğan government were published in any Turkish newspaper. It would come in for a barrage of smears from ruling party representatives, its media and trolls alleging anything from treason to espionage.
Stop, just stop!
The New York Times ran a headline of only three words over Trump’s anti-press tweets: “Stop, just stop!” There is now a need for society, which has been deprived of the right to obtain news relating to the country’s future (survival), and journalists to say the same thing here about the pressurisation of the press: Stop, just stop!