This week, a special edition of the Listening Post takes an in-depth look at the relationship between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the media landscape in which he operates.
One aspect of that relationship was revealed last month when audio files were leaked online in which Erdogan could be heard giving personal directions to a top executive at one of Turkey’s biggest news channels. That it was the prime minister himself who made the call speaks volumes about a political leader who is highly sensitive about the media crossing lines.
However, this is not simply a story of the media bending to the political will of a powerful leader; often they are more than happy to do so.
Many of the most influential outlets in Turkey’s private media are tied to the government through their owners - big players in the Turkish economy whose political connections are crucial to their profits.
That leaves the internet - where corporations and politicians do not usually call the shots. But Erdogan’s AK Party has just passed legislation that makes it easier to take down contentious content. Could this be related to the online leaks that have recently damaged the government’s reputation?
Discussing these issues are voices from both sides of the Turkish media equation. Hakan Camuz, the chairman of Musiad UK, and Osman Can from the AK Party Central Committee, see nothing new in Erdogan’s efforts to manage the media. However, Haluk Sahin, a communications professor at Istanbul Bilgi University; Mustafa Alp Dagistanli, a journalist and author; and Serdar Akinan, Vagus.tv founder, see the prime minister’s approach as heavy-handed. Tulin Daloglu, 'Turkey Pulse’ columnist for Al-Monitor gives us the analytic overview.
For the second half of the programme, Listening Post presenter, Richard Gizbert traveled to Istanbul to interview Akif Beki who, as Erdogan’s press advisor from 2005-2009 has an insider’s perspective on how the prime minister approaches the media.
Gizbert talked to Beki, now a prominent columnist, about issues surrounding Turkey’s media conglomerates, their role in the coverage of last year’s Gezi Park protests and the new measures that threaten to put a muzzle on internet freedom.
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.
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