Turkish critical media crippled by Doğan group sale – Reporters Without Borders

The sale of Turkey’s largest media group, Doğan Media Company, to a businessman with close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has “confirmed the death of media pluralism in Turkey,” press freedom non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a published statement on Thursday.

The sale of the group to Demirören Holdings on Wednesday means that popular news titles, including Hürriyet, Turkey’s highest circulation daily newspaper, are now controlled by Erdoğan Demirören, who is known for his close links to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Demirören was heard sobbing and begging forgiveness from the president in a tape leaked in 2014, when President Erdoğan complained about a news story published in Milliyet, another newspaper owned by the businessman. Demirören vowed to “deal ruthlessly” with those responsbile for the story.

The sale will bring the proportion of media companies affiliated to the government to a staggering 90 percent, according to data quoted by RSF from the Media Ownership Monitor.

“This sale means the death of pluralism and independent journalism in Turkey’s mainstream media,” said Erol Önderoğlu, RSF’s Turkey representative. “The government now has complete control of the media in the run-up to general elections in 2019. Amid an unprecedented crackdown on civil society and the political opposition, only a handful of low-circulation newspapers still offer an alternative to the government’s propaganda.”

RSF ranked Turkey 155th out of 180 countries in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, in large part due to the 150 media outlets closed and record number of journalists detained under the ongoing state of emergency, in place since shortly after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.