Media out to lynch me since the 90s – Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told the audience at the Turkish annual Media Oscars awards ceremony that throughout his political career the media has set out to lynch him.

“From the time I served as mayor (of Istanbul) to now, I’m afraid more than anyone else the media has tried to lynch us. We have had a great struggle with the media,” Erdoğan said.

“We reached where we are today after constant run-ins with spin doctors who used their newspaper columns like weapons. I have not forgotten the headlines about me saying I could not even become a mukhtar (village headman),” he continued.

Erdoğan referred to a headline printed in Hürriyet newspaper in 1998, when he received an eight-month prison sentence and ban from political activity for reciting a religious poem in the stridently secular parliament of the time.

Since then, Erdoğan has proven the headline wrong, winning a succession of elections to finally become the country’s first executive president this year.

He and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have also gained near total control of the country’s media, sealing their control with the highly symbolic purchase by a pro-government business group of the last semi-independent major media company, including Hürriyet, in March this year.

“A mindset that treated the nation with contempt was welcomed in the media for too long. Wasn’t it always the media that insulted the people’s manners and their brains? I think the media today is far more respectful than it was before,” Erdoğan said.

The president referred to controversial columns penned by secularist writers in the mid-2000s that lampooned the appearance and mannerisms of many of the religious working class and rural societal segments who frequently cast votes for the AKP. One notorious column penned by Bekir Coşkun for Hürriyet in 2007 portrayed a stereotype of these as an uneducated “man who scratches his belly.”

With around 90 percent of Turkish media outlets now controlled by government allies, and a strict crackdown on dissent that has made Turkey the largest jailer of journalists in the world, critical media is likely no longer the fearsome opponent Erdoğan described during his speech.
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