Leaked tape reveals PM Erdoğan feeds content to pro-gov media

A Twitter account leaked a new voice recording on Sunday afternoon, purportedly of a conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son Bilal a day after the Dec. 17 graft probe, in which the two discussed the headlines of pro-government newspapers, sending the independence of the Turkish media further into question.

In the recording, Bilal tells his father that he met with Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Serhat Albayrak, Berat’s brother, to decide on the headlines of the pro-government media outlets for the coming day, and that he would wait for his confirmation from his father. “We have to do something to make them [the Hizmet movement] to pay the price so that they will know their place. This job will be finished. Something must be done until we reach the one at the top [referring to the Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the Hizmet movement],” Bilal tells his father in the recording. The prime minister then gives his son approval and says Serhat, the top manager of Sabah, Takvim and ATV media outlets, and the managers of the other media outlets must act concertedly to provide support to the government. The three aforementioned media outlets have been called the “pool media” due to allegations that the prime minister ordered a number of businessmen to create a pool of funds to acquire the media group that owns those outlets.

Bilal then mentions some examples of the headlines that they have contrived, such as Takvim’s “Vaiz Lobisi” (A lobby of preachers) and Sabah’s “Kaset Olmadı Dosya Verelim” (The tapes didn’t work, let’s provide documents). Bilal said these newspapers are taking instructions from him and that if he says so, they will start bashing the Hizmet movement. Erdoğan then signals a green light to his son, saying these newspapers should start the way Bilal suggested.

Bilal then asks his father to order the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to provide a background check on the Hizmet, such as documents or inside information about its operation or internal structure. The prime minister answers his son’s request by saying that he will take care of it. Bilal says pro-government reporters are finding some information through their own sources, but that it would be “very different” and more effective if the MİT lent a hand.

Erdoğan has occasionally lashed out at independent newspapers for running confidential information leaked by MİT, calling them “traitors,” but the leaked audio allegedly reveals that he himself ordered the intelligence agency to produce material against the Hizmet movement.

Indeed, in the first weeks following the graft probe, which became public with the detention of more than 50 people, all of whom have been released despite serious allegations and solid evidence against them, Sabah and Takvim were the forerunners of anti-Hizmet stories.

In those stories, the Hizmet movement, a voluntary movement spreading interfaith dialogue around the world, is responsible for the creation of a parallel state within the current ruling administration. All these stories were denied by Gülen, his lawyers and several Hizmet institutions, and the newspapers had to publish official admissions of libel on their pages.

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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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