Western media bias echoes Ottoman-era coverage - Turkish academic

Western media outlets show their bias in covering Turkish politics and targeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a way that echoes similar attacks on Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II, said an analysis in pro-government Daily Sabah on Wednesday.

The Western media’s interest in Turkey has increased in the last couple of months with British newspaper the Independent opening a Turkish online news site and German Deutsche Welle launching a Turkish-language YouTube channel with the BBC, France24 and Voice of America. 

DW Director General Peter Limbourg said that their aim was to provide viewers with credible information that would help them form their own opinions. 

Turkey's political issues receive almost greater media coverage than Europe's crises, especially during electoral periods, according to academic Yusuf Özkır, an associate professor at Istanbul Medipol University's Faculty of Communication. 

"While on the one hand these media outlets are engaged in routine journalism, in a very sophisticated manner, they also publish reports critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There has been an effort to place undue emphasis on Turkey's social problems with the intention of creating a sociological vulnerability,” Özkır wrote in Daily Sabah.

According to Özkır, foreign media outlets rack their brains to connect negative news content with the Turkish government and their level of attention has significantly increased following March 31 local polls in Turkey, as Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced defeats in five of the country’s largest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara. 

“According to the first bias, the March 31 elections actually mark the collapse of an alleged autocratic system built by President Erdoğan,” Özkır said, adding that foreign media did not answer the question of how an autocrat could lose elections. 

The second bias, Özkır said, could be found in evaluations tying election results with the 2013 Taksim-Gezi Park protests, the biggest demonstrations against Erdoğan since he came to power in 2003.

“When doing that, they designate Erdoğan as an absolute ‘other.’ They have no other focus when interpreting Turkey's elections,” Özkır said. “It's useful to remember that similar evaluations were made about Sultan Abdülhamit II during the early 20th century.”

According to Özkır, European capitals, who saw Abdülhamit as an obstacle to their goal of disintegrating the Ottoman Empire, were joyous when the sultan was ousted in 1909 by the Committee of Union and Progress.

“Though it is said that mistakes, but not history itself, repeat themselves, the existing web of anti-Erdoğanist lies woven by Western media bears a striking resemblance to those that appeared in newspapers during Abdülhamit's reign,” Özkır said.