Audio leaks further prove Erdoğan’s control of Turkish media

Several new audio recordings were uploaded onto YouTube by Twitter user Başçalan (Chief Thief) on Monday evening, allegedly proving that the government pressured NTV, a nationwide news station, to host a program during which a top advisor of the prime minister would defend the government against recent corruption allegations.

In the first recording, purportedly featuring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Doğuş Holding Chairman Ferit Şahenk, Erdoğan tells Şahenk about complaints he had received regarding NTV Editor-in-Chief Nermin Yurteri’s reluctance to host Yiğit Bulut, Erdoğan’s chief advisor, on a discussion program. He then instructs Şahenk to convince Yurteri to give up her resistance and to have her contact another adviser, Yalçın Akdoğan, to settle the issue.

For Erdoğan, the graft probe that became public on Dec. 17 was just another version of last summer’s Gezi Park protests, nationwide demonstrations against the authoritarian inclinations of the prime minister and his rising interference into individuals’ private lives. Erdoğan accuses the top manager of the channel of being “spineless” because of her disinclination to defend the government against what he has called a “conspiracy against his rule plotted by foreign powers.” Erdoğan even names the United States as the main force behind the investigations.

In the recording, Şahenk tries to explain something about Bulut, but Erdoğan interrupts him, insisting that Bulut appears on air because of his preparedness on these issues. The prime minister points out that Bulut had already called the station’s executives and, upon being rejected, he complained to Erdoğan and wanted him to call the station directly.

According to the leaked audio recording, the legality of which has not yet been confirmed, Akdoğan had tried to convince Yurteri to allow Bulut speak on air, but was not successful. Şahenk finally assures the prime minister that they would speak with Akdoğan and that Bulut would be able to appear before the NTV cameras.

The second recorded conversation allegedly took place between Akdoğan and Erdoğan. Akdoğan tries to justify to the prime minister why the NTV executives were reluctant, explaining that allocating too much airtime for pro-government commentators had been drawing the ire of the audience and that inviting Bulut to speak would only add insult to injury.

Akdoğan mentions the Demirören Group, which owns the Milliyet daily, and tells Erdoğan that NTV claims to be on the government’s side, like Demirören. He says someone called “Yıldırım” — possibly referring to Yıldırım Demirören, the son of Demirören Group Chairman Erdoğan Demirören — has been asking to schedule a meeting, adding that he has been declining his requests. Akdoğan says Yıldırım has been sending messages to convince him that their publication’s stance is “really good” but that he is not very pleased with the way the group is steering the paper.

Başçalan’s next audio leak was purportedly between Akdoğan and Yurteri. Akdoğan reproachfully asks Yurteri why she hadn’t called him since the eruption of the scandal, to which Yurteri responds saying she was in “a [state of] big shock,” adding that it is usually hard to reach him and that she thought he wouldn’t pick up. Akdoğan talks about his conversation with someone called Baran at the station. Baran apparently told Akdoğan that NTV has been trying to keep its broadcasts balanced, but that they have nonetheless been receiving negative feedback from their viewers.

Yurteri then says she is of the same opinion and that she is ready to send examples of viewers’ harsh reactions as posted on Twitter. If the station continues to do what they are doing, 10,000 demonstrators may gather in front of the NTV administrative office.

In another recording between Akdoğan and Yurteri, Akdoğan accuses Yurteri of highlighting negative points and emphasizing corruption within the government. Yurteri again mentions the angry Twitter messages. Yurteri then starts listing the names of people they have hosted who defended the government during their interviews, such as Sabah columnist Mehmet Barlas, a Yeni Şafak columnist whose name she couldn’t remember and Star daily columnist Fadime Özkan.

Yurteri continues to provide more examples proving how careful they have been not to run against the interests of the government; she says they did not even mention the names of the ministers implicated in the graft probe. She tells Akdoğan that whoever is sending such negative feedback about the station is not telling the truth and that they are friends of neither NTV nor the government.

In a last audio, Yurteri clearly objects to NTV hosting Bulut, and starts bargaining with Akdoğan, saying they can invite anyone but Bulut, who is known for his tendency to explain everything through conspiracy theories involving global power circles and dozens of lobbies plotting against Turkey to prevent it from gaining international prominence.


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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