Pro-govt press blames economic woes on “crisis lobby” - media roundup

The Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s hunt for members of the outlawed Gülen movement abroad, and its frustration with foreign governments that do not agree with its classification of the group as a terrorist movement, were themes in the pro-government press in Monday, after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s weekend visit to Germany.

The president said he had delivered a list containing over a hundred names of suspected members of the religious movement, which the AKP blames for the failed coup plot in July 2016, but later complained to Turkish newspapers that the German government had ignored his request to take legal action against them.

The refusal, as Islamist daily Yeni Akit reported in its headline, put Germany at a similar level to the United States, which has refused to refuse the movement’s leader, Fethullah Gülen – “not serious” about addressing a major issue for Turkey.

German officials quoted in the German press denied any list had been delivered, however.

Secularist daily BirGün led with a piece on the opening of Turkey’s parliament, which took place on Monday. The newspaper lamented the parliament’s lack of powers – it was stripped of many of its authorities in July when Erdoğan was sworn in as the first president under the country’s new executive presidential system.

In fact, it was Erdoğan, and not any figure from parliament who took centre stage on the government-friendly front pages which focused on the opening the next day.

Star reported Erdoğan’s “meaningful call” to parliament to work with him to serve the nation, while Sabah reported on the president’s “manifesto” delivered during the opening of parliament, a list of his comments on the need to dismantle the old system, fight the Gülen movement and other outlawed groups, and oppose the United States, but little actual policy.

The pro-Erdoğan Islamist newspaper Yeni Şafak’s front page focused on another of the president’s pronouncement from the previous day’s ceremony – his promise to take the fight to Kurdish militias in Syria and Iraq “in the near future.”

Turkish armed forces have been fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group seeking Kurdish self-rule through armed struggle, since the 1980s, and after the conflict resumed in 2015 after peace talks with the AKP broke down.

Operation Olive Branch, an assault on Syrian-Kurdish PKK-affiliated groups in control of the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin launched in January this year, was the latest major episode of the conflict, and since then Turkey has been threatening action against Syrian areas further east and against PKK strongholds in Iraq.

The secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet’s front page story concerned problems much closer to home – the severe economic downturn faced by the country this year, and the effect this will have on citizens hit by rising prices for energy and staple goods this winter.

The newspaper reports that families which had paid 113 lira for natural gas in January are now paying 147, and a similar rise has been experienced in electricity prices.

The price of bread has also gone up by a quarter in Ankara, Cumhuriyet reported.

Liberal Islamist daily Karar’s Wednesday front page addressed the Turkish government’s employment of McKinsey, a U.S. business consultancy firm, to oversee Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak’s New Economic Model.

The employment of McKinsey has proven controversial in Turkey, where many critics fear the firm could make gains from the sensitive data it is given access to in the quarterly it will conduct. Besides that, the firm’s past successes are marred by a record that includes involvement in the scandalous collapse of U.S. energy firm Enron in 2001, and in a corruption scandal in South Africa in 2015.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, has criticised Erdoğan’s decision to employ a firm from the United States after this year accusing the country of waging “economic war” on Turkey.

The CHP leader levelled his criticism at the president during a parliamentary questions session and demanded the cancellation of the McKinsey contract, Cumhuriyet reported on its front page.

Meanwhile, pro-government daily Star’s front page on the same issue kept up its glorious record this year of coining names for groups seeking the destruction of Turkey, after publishing reports in recent months of “meat barons” and “price tag anarchists” unfairly raising prices for goods.

For Star, criticism of Erdoğan’s decision to employ the U.S. firm is directed by a “crisis lobby,” apparently working to create an economic crisis in the country.

On Thursday, the major news of the day went mostly unreported on pro-government front pages: the announcement that inflation rates had shot up in September, despite a massive 625-basis point hike bringing interest rates to 25 per cent.

The 24.5 per cent inflation was a 15-year high, Cumhuriyet said on its front page, and had “wrecked the New Economic Model in 10 days,” leftist-nationalist daily Aydınlık’s front page said.

Pro-government press found inventive ways to approach the issue, with Sabah’s exemplary front page reporting Albayrak’s declaration that Turkey would buck the trend and bring inflation down in October, without actually reporting the figures.

The newspaper also kept up the government’s attack on traders it alleges are seeking to unfairly profit from Turkey’s economic woes by raising prices unreasonably. Turkey’s trade ministry has called for citizens who see unreasonable price rises in shops to inform on them, and a box on Sabah’s front page reports the government has so far received 27,500 complaints.

During a televised forum on Thursday night, Erdoğan discussed his country’s chances of gaining EU accession, complaining that his country has become worn out by the drawn out process and saying the matter of whether to proceed could be taken to the public in a referendum.

“This will make good headlines tomorrow,” said Erdoğan as he mentioned the referendum, and Turkish newspapers dutifully reported on the matter the next day, with Yeni Şafak, Star, Türkiye and more reporting on the “ill feeling” the president had said the EU’s refusal to grant Turkey accession has raised.

Turkey formally began accession negotiations in 2004, and since then several countries that applied at the same time or more recently have been granted membership. However, Turkey’s negotiations have stalled due to concerns voiced by the European Parliament on the country’s rule of law and recent human rights record.

Karar’s front page on Friday, meanwhile, reported on the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to finalise divorce papers.

Suspicions lie on the Saudi government for the disappearance of the journalist, a prominent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, and Karar’s front page demanded an answer from Riyadh.