Nov 12 2018

Erdoğan’s top advisers disappear from the Turkish media

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s senior advisers have disappeared from the columns of the country’s leading newspapers.

Daily Sabah, the pro-government English language daily, hasn’t published a column by Ilnur Cevik, who advises Erdoğan on diplomacy, since Nov. 2, its archives show. Economic advisers Yigit Bulut, who writes for Star newspaper, and Cemil Ertem, who contributes to Milliyet, haven’t written since the end of October. All three had produced at least one column per week for the newspapers.

The absence of Erdoğan’s closest aides follows a Nov. 7 report by news website Patronlar Dunyası that claimed both Bulut, a former TV anchor, and Cevik had lost their high-profile news analysis shows on state-run TRT television. Journalist Ahmhet Hakan said advisers of the president will no longer be allowed to host televisions programmes and write newspaper columns regularly.

The apparent measure comes during a severe economic downturn in the country and as Turkey and the United States seek to improve their relations. Erdoğan has also centralised his power base under a strengthened presidential system introduced after June elections, appointing his son-in-law Berat Albayrak to run the economy..

Last week saw a changing of the guard among advisers at the presidential palace. Erdoğan appointed Dr. İsrafil Kışla, a politician and a graduate of theology and economics, as one of his chief advisers, according to a presidential decree in the Official Gazette on Nov. 9. Ibrahim Kalın, who serves as Erdoğan’s chief spokesman, was also made chief adviser and given ambassador status.

In his latest column for Daily Sabah on Nov. 2, Cevik had slammed the United States for its support of Kurdish militants in Syria, saying a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “terrorist” had been hired by the Americans to lead the campaign against Islamic State (ISIS).  He said the appointment was “simply a scandal” and that Washington should start cooperating with Turkey “in earnest”.

Bulut, a senior adviser since 2013, had risen to fame in Turkey as a journalist and news anchor, including for CNN Türk, before his appointment by Erdoğan. But he is best known internationally for his wild conspiracy theories, including the contention that foreign powers were plotting to assassinate Erdoğan by telekinesis.

Çevik has served as a journalist in Turkey since the 1970s and worked as a columnist and editor-in-chief at various newspapers.

Kalın is known to write op-eds for Erdoğan in leading international newspapers – the Turkish president’s English language skills are limited. He also produces his own columns at strategic moments to convey Turkey’s official policy, including during a recent political crisis with the United States.