Full transcript: How PM Erdoğan roasts a Turkish media proprietor

Here is the full transcript of the phone conversation purported to have taken place between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (RTE) and the businessman and media proprietor Erdoğan Demirören (ED).

ED: Did I upset you, boss?

RTE: Honestly, you really messed it up…

ED: When should we meet up?

RTE: What’s the good of us meeting up? Is this kind of screw up even possible, like, what kind of…

ED: This is why we have to find out who leaked them [the documents].

RTE: Forget about who leaked them. Whoever leaked them, leaked them. That’s a separate issue. But is it your newspaper’s job to engage in such provocation?

ED: No, could such a thought even cross our mind, Mr. Prime Minister?

RTE: What do you mean could it cross your mind? It already has crossed your mind. What more do you want? Like, using a headline like this, and then could it even cross our mind? Just to sell three more, five more copies, whichever of your men would do something so shameful, and then you still go around defending him? And then it doesn’t even cross your mind?

ED: No, I’m not defending him. I have been working on this matter for the whole night.

RTE: For God’s sake, this newspaper’s headlines, main stories…

ED: May I request one thing of you? Just give me half an hour.

RTE: You know, we’ve set aside many half an hours for you. This [running such articles in the newspaper] is disgraceful. Is this even possible? After this, I will no longer take along any journalist from your paper with me on my, on any of my trips abroad. Hey, let’s allow so and so – how many times have we sat down and spoken with Mr. Derya (Derya Sazak, the sacked editor-in-chief of Milliyet)? I spoke with him, my colleagues spoke with him, too. Honestly, we entered into this nice period, calling it a solution process, taking risks, doing you name it, and then he prepares a lie, a wrong top story, that immoral, vile, shameless guy. He wants to ruin all of this, and you are his boss.

ED: OK, what do you want me to do?

RTE: What I would like you to do is, do whatever you must do, do everything to these shameless people. So you must say if someone uses this kind of a headline, I wonder if someone does something so shameful, if you’d keep them around for even one more hour?

ED: We would not.

RTE: You’d immediately show them the door.

ED: But let me just say, look…

RTE: Just look at this, we have taken such a big risk and will do I don’t know what… Yesterday’s headline was hard to gloss over, hard to swallow. Look, I didn’t call you. Friends [indecipherable] if you don’t call today, I will again [phone disconnects]

ED: Hello?

Second conversation

RTE: Hello

ED: I will do what is necessary, Mr. Prime Minister. I will…

RTE: Do as you please.

ED: I promise you [indecipherable]

RTE: Derya is most responsible for this. This lowbred man who wrote this article [Namık Durukan, the Milliyet reporter who reported on the inmates on İmralı] is responsible, irrespective of who leaked this to him.

ED: I will [speak with] him today…

RTE: If he is sincere, he’ll tell you who leaked it to him and we can urgently get to him. If this is someone from my own team, I will do what is necessary, but if this is someone from the BDP, let him say so, and we will do what is necessary then, too.

ED: I will let you know by this evening who it came from.


ED: Is that alright, Mr. Prime Minister?

RTE: Alright, alright.

ED: Don’t take it to heart.


ED: Here we go [in tears].

RTE: Alright then. Have a good day. Hello?

ED: How did I get involved in this business? For who?[in tears]

RTE: All the best. Alright, have a good day.

ED: Thank you [still sobbing].

RTE: Good day.


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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