Turkey’s ‘free’ press baulks at Zarrab’s mention of Erdoğan

Turkey’s top-selling independent and opposition newspapers initially omitted any mention of Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab’s testimony about then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s involvement in a scheme to bypass Iranian sanctions.

The detailed account of the case on the website of Hürriyet – Turkey’s biggest-selling newspaper and a regular target of government rhetoric – at first skipped over Zarrab’s allegation that Erdoğan and then-Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan had given the order for the sanctions scheme to be expanded to include two more state banks.

However, this morning, the missing allegation was added back in, and the news was also included in the print edition.

The more stridently anti-government newspaper Sözcü – the only other publication not to toe the government line out of the top 10 best-selling papers in Turkey – still made no mention of Erdoğan’s alleged role on its website as of this morning.

Sözcü newspaper's article promising – but not delivering – "all the details"
Sözcü newspaper's article promising – but not delivering – "all the details"

The reticence to include the news is likely out of a sense of self-preservation, but it also brings to mind the “Hello Fatih?” scandal of 2014, in which tapes were leaked of Erdoğan calling Fatih Saraç, the head of Ciner media group, to micro-manage the way in which TV channel HaberTürk delivered its news.

Sözcü’s owner, Burak Akbay, faces terror charges should he return to Turkey.