Newspaper heads sought advice on headlines, says ex-Erdoğan advisor

Kemal Öztürk, a former advisor of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said on Sunday heads of various newspapers had been asking him if their headlines were appropriate.

Öztürk served as an advisor for Erdoğan between 2007 and 2011 and he became the head of state-run Anadolu news agency after he quitted his job as Erdoğan's aide. 

"But let me tell you this: Our friends who say that they are independent and free journalists today, were running newspapers at that time. And without my request, they sent me the next day's headlines, asking me 'Is it appropriate'. They were publishing the newspaper after that," Öztürk said during an interview.

Turkey has been severely criticised for backlash in press freedom in the country for some years already. And pressure on media has been dramatically intensified following the 2016's coup attempt, with over 120,000 people in the police, military, academia, media and civil service have been detained or dismissed from their jobs over their alleged links to the Gülen movement which Turkish authorities blame for orchestrating the coup attempt.

"I know very well the past of those who give very high-pitch ethical messages today," Öztürk said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) placed Turkey 157th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index in 2018, down two from the previous year, and called Turkey the “world’s biggest jailer of journalists” in the 2018 report.