Yes, Prime Minister!.. What happened when a furious David Cameron called Sky News media boss

 Here is my column that was published by TZ today:
It is July 2013. Still licking his wounds after the lengthy Occupy London protests, an extremely weary, short-tempered David Cameron is in his office in London.
He had no idea how to tackle the London demonstrations; he chose the hard way, a lot of people were hurt and he has been under attack by the opposition ever since.

He turns on Sky News. As he watches, he goes ballistic: It is the dreaded Ed Miliband at it again, bashing his administration. Ed has assembled the press, attacking him — can one imagine, him! — for what he has done. Those ungrateful bastards can never let go, can they?

Now fuming, he grabs the phone, and calls the director of operations at Sky News, let’s call him “John.” He was a rather “helpful” person to have had appointed.

The following conversation takes place:

Cameron: John? Is that you? It is me.

John: Yes, Prime Minister?

Cameron: John, are you watching this press briefing at all?

John: Oh, sir, I am at home now, just a minute. Sorry, ehm, do you mean Sky News sir, the one there?

Cameron: Yes, John.

John: Oh no sir, just clicked on…

Cameron: Well, this guy..

John: Yes sir, insufferable…

Cameron: Look John, do you, I mean do you have any bloody idea at all what you are doing? Are you out of your mind? The bloke goes out there, issues a manifest as if Great Britain is finished, collapsed, entirely out of control and you are airing this live?

John: Oh, sir, I am having it cut off right away, sir. Immediately, as you say…

Cameron: What is this? It’s been on a while.

John: Yes, but sir…

Cameron: It has been 20-25 minutes already! Bloody 25 minutes!

John: Just give me three minutes sir; I’ll have it cut.

Cameron: What the heck is going on?

John: Right away sir. I’ll tell them immediately.

Cameron: It is a disgrace! The bloke has been swearing at us [me], from the beginning. How can you let it run like this?

John: Respected sir, it’s to have statements aired by all the parties in parliament, for the record…

Cameron: Why? Why on earth would you do that? Record? Why should you be under any obligation? Well, look at this guy, as if the country is out of control.

John: Yes, prime minister!

Cameron: It is as if traitors have taken over in the country, as if we are in cooperation with them; this press meeting is unacceptable…

John: Yes sir, fully understood sir!

Cameron: Bloody hell!

John: Right away sir. My deepest apologies, dear sir!

Whereupon, the director calls the news editor and makes it very clear, that “our elder is very sad.” The editor resists a bit, but the broadcast is taken off the air.

John is not fully relaxed. Unable to reach Cameron, he calls his brother, let’s call him “Mike,” and tells him, “I am sad to see dear sir sad, let him know.”

This, surely, did not happen in Britain. Now, replace the names: Cameron with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “John” with Fatih Saraç, and the brother, “Mike,” with Bilal Erdoğan, the son of the Turkish prime minister — the conversation above is a verbatim transcript of a series of phone calls that took place.

The conversation apparently took place over the phone– since no denial has been issued — and was leaked over social media Saturday evening. This one is the third in a series of records revealing the real nature of relations between the prime minister himself and the private media.

In the previous recording, Erdoğan, calling from Morocco in the wake of the Gezi protests, asks to have a tiny news ticker removed. Saraç and Fatih Altaylı (an editor at the Habertürk daily) discuss how they can manipulate an opinion poll in favor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), so that “sir” can be “pleased.”

If this had happened in Britain, or elsewhere in any democracy, the prime minister would be asked to step down immediately. The news channel would be facing a storm and those involved would be fired, unless they were to resign in shame. It would go down as a scandal of historic proportions.

Not here.

Erdoğan goes on as if nothing has happened; so do the media managers. On Saturday, more than 12 private stations aired his propaganda speech. There is an eclipse of minds taking place.

There is no longer any reliable, independent media to ask for the prime minister’s resignation and for early elections.

In my 35 years of professional experience, I have never witnessed anything like this. I am gravely concerned, including for the safety of the elections.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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