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The power elites have always been influential on the media since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. In 1928, the switch from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet was made. The single-party government ended in 1950 with the Democratic Party (DP) acceding to power and with the CHP, which had been in power since its formation, becoming the opposition party. Apart from the coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980, Turkey also suffered a “post-modern” coup in 1997. During the 1960 and 1980 coups, the parliament and the constitution were abolished, political activities were banned/suspended. Adnan Menderes, the Prime Minister; Hasan Polatkan, the Finance Minister; and Fatin Rüştü Zorlu, the Foreign Minister of the government that fell with the coup, were executed after extraordinary trials. 

After the 1971 coup, People's Liberation Army of Turkey leaders Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan were executed. 98,000 people were accused of being ”organization members”. It has been documented that 171 people died under torture, 50 people (rightist, leftist or punitive) were executed. Journalists were given a total of 3,315 years and 6 months of imprisonment. 937 films were banned because they were found “objectionable”. 30 tons of newspapers and magazines were destroyed. Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan was forced to resign on February 28, 1997.

In the armed struggle that started with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) raid on police stations in 1984, 40,000 people have died; according to a January 14, 1998 dated report of the Internal Migration Commission, which was formed within the parliament, 378,335 people were forced to migrate from 820 villages and 2,345 smaller settlements. According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV-HRFT), more than 3,400 villages and arable fields were evacuated in the 1990s; 3 million Kurds have been displaced. In the 37 years, immense rights violations were committed, including the right to life. Media freedom and freedom of expression are among the worst violations in that regard. According to the report of the “Sub-Commission for Investigating Violations of Right to Life as Part of Terrorist Incidents and Acts of Violence”, established within the body of the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission dated 2013, 35 thousand 576 people in total, except for the incidents of death not indicated in statistics, lost their lives.

Conglomerates serving in sectors such as energy, construction etc. began investing in the media sector in the 1990s. Being active in these areas mainly means taking public tenders. Due to public tenders, relations with the government and activities outside of the media, the broadcasting policies of the media outlets are affected, increasing self-censorship. This makes "editorial independence" even more questionable.

Media owners and executives had close relations with the military during the 90s. After the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, relations with the ruling elite changed in favor of the civilian government. During the 1990s, editor-in-chiefs regularly got phone calls from the generals in the Turkish army. Leaked wiretaps of the December 17-25, 2013 corruption scandal showed that government officials made phone calls to several mainstream media outlets, directly intervening in their media coverage.

Following the Constitutional amendment by a referendum on April 16, 2017, elections were held on June 24, 2018 and the Presidential government system entered into force in Turkey as of July 9, 2018.

Government interference

When big media companies went bankrupt in the 2001 economic crisis, the state took control of their media outlets. With the active involvement of the Savings Deposit and Insurance Fund (TMSF) in the media sector, the government became an important player in the media business. Recently, 11 media outlets have been sold to people and companies that have close ties to the government. TMSF is analyzed in detail in the "Politics" page.

From “Pool” media to end of mainstream media in Turkey

According to leaked phone conversations in 2014, some pro-government investors were forced to collect money and create what later came to be known as "the pool media," to buy Sabah-ATV (Turkuvaz Group) from Çalık Group. After Çalık Group sold Sabah and ATV to the Zirve Holding of Ömer Faruk Kalyoncu, who has close ties with the government, the “pool media” was formed. Turkuvaz Media Group was established by the Kalyon Group (Çalık Holding, Çalık Turizm Kültür İnşaat Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş., Gapyapı İnşaat A.Ş.), which has won several tenders in a series of infrastructure works and is close to the AKP. Today "pool media" has become a term symbolizing the media that publishes/broadcasts pro-government stories.

On March 22, 2018, all media assets of Doğan Group were sold to pro-government Demirören Group. This was regarded as the end of “media pluralism” and “mainstream media” in Turkey.

2013 Gezi Park resistance 

Millions of people from all over Turkey took to Taksim Square, in İstanbul and Gezi Park to protest the government in 2013. Gezi Park protests marked a turning point in the media-government relations. Many journalists in mainstream media outlets lost their jobs for criticizing the government. 

The Gezi Resistance in 2013 started against the cutting of trees in Gezi Park and the construction of the Topçu Military Barracks and a shopping mall. The resistance then spread all over Turkey and reached large masses. In a short time, the resistance turned into a movement that grew with the demands of millions of people for justice, democracy and freedom. According to the data of the Ministry of Interior, 2.5 million people participated in the protests in 79 provinces.

According to the BİA Media Monitoring Report, between May 27 and September 30, 2013, the police attacked 153 journalists and detained 39 of them. The then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the media of manipulating society and creating unrest in the country. Besides, mainstream media was criticized for not covering protests but airing a documentary on penguins and cooking shows. Thus, penguins became a symbol of media censorship.

Failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and the state of emergency

Turkey was governed under a state of emergency, which was declared five days after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and 19 executive orders; the AKP holds the Gülenist Organization to account for the coup attempt, despite having shared the power with the same organization between 2002-2013.

Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as part of the Convention's 15th Article. The execution of this Article is still being discussed in terms of fundamental human rights, especially media freedom and freedom of speech. The state of emergency was being extended every three months. The failed coup attempt is being analyzed in detail in the "Politics" page.

On July 19, 2018, the government ended the state of emergency after having extended it seven times for three-month periods, with the declaration of 32 statutory decrees in total for two years.

During the state of emergency, 179 media organisations, [newspapers (53), TVs (34), radios (37), magazines (20), news agencies (6) and printing houses (29)] were shut down on the grounds that they belong to “the Gülen Media”, “the PKK Media”, “the Leftist Media”.



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