The fate of political powers in Turkey has always been determined by the mainstream media. Influential capital groups, which have investments in a variety of sectors from the oil market to the pharmaceutical industry, used their media power to discipline governments and they won low-cost, guaranteed and lucrative contracts. Thanks to state support, they obtained concessions in the market. They paved the way for the design of antidemocratic politics with their attitudes of the four military coups staged throughout Turkey's history. However, this balance of terror started to change when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002. The party's founder, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, liquidated military and bureaucratic tutelage during his time as prime minister. He ensured that politics would run according to its natural and democratic dynamics. Now, governments can be changed only through elections instead of through military coups staged after the mainstream media manipulates the agenda to this end.
Against all odds, the mainstream media, which longs for its glorious and privileged old days, is still hopeful. That is why mainstream media outlets do politics with all their might and by using their old tactics ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections, which they regard as a critical turning point. The recent example of this is the debate that has started in Turkey after a pro-coup Egyptian court handed down a death sentence to Egypt's democratically elected former president, Mohammed Morsi. The Doğan Media Group, which overtly supported military coups in Turkey through its newspapers and television channels, possesses a considerable portion of Turkey's mainstream media. A subsidiary of the Doğan Media Group, daily Hürriyet, announced Morsi's death sentence with the following headline: "Death sentence to Egypt's president who was elected with 52 percent."
This headline caused quite a stir among readers and they lost their temper because of a half-baked subliminal message aimed at Erdoğan, who has become a symbol due to the 52 percent of the vote he received in the presidential election. The newspaper had to step back from this perception manipulation, which matched its notorious past, and changed the headline. When political institutions and Erdoğan himself responded to the newspaper, the Doğan Media Group announced that it would maintain the contention with an editorial published earlier in the week. It seems tension will continue until the elections.
They have grown further over the past 13 years
Although they could not achieve privileges during the 13 years of AK Party rule, the central media and the capital behind it have grown further. As well as their income statements, their shares in advertisements, the high circulation of their newspapers and the ratings of their television channels blatantly reveal this growth. During a speech delivered on Tuesday, Erdoğan said that Aydın Doğan, the founder of the Doğan Media Group, told this situation to Erdoğan himself.
Some 75 percent of Turkey's newspapers and television channels have a severe line of opposition to the AK Party government. Despite this concrete situation, the mainstream media argues that the Turkish media is oppressed and hampered. We are talking about newspapers that aim at the country's elected president and do not hesitate to put headlines, saying, "We will spit on Erdoğan's grave when he dies," and magazines that picture Erdoğan on the gallows on its front cover, saying that he must be executed. Considering that a media outlet increases its circulation and ratings and it broadcasts programs and publishes articles, opinion pieces and headlines that can be regarded as hate crimes, it is strange for it to talk about the oppression of the media. I think what they mean when arguing that media is oppressed in Turkey is that publications that aim to design politics through antidemocratic and derogatory means, are not "appreciated," but criticized, by the government and the president.
With the Doğan Media Group taking the lead, the mainstream media, which acts like an opposition media party in an organized fashion, wants to take advantage of the legitimacy and privileges of journalism. They want to issue partial publications like an opposition party while they want to be treated as a media outlet. As in any institutionalized democracy, this situation cannot be tolerated in Turkey. Turkey's people are aware of what is going on. The mainstream media, which mistakes criticism, the core of journalism, for opposition, is gradually losing its economic and cultural dominance that it has achieved through its privileges for 80 years. It seems that this media will grow more aggressive as it starts to compete on a more equal footing with the newly growing alternative mainstream media.
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