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When the AKP took power, four large private groups owned almost all the country's media-a concentration of power already far too dense for political health. The largest was the Dogan group, which controlled some 70 per cent of the nation's print and broadcast outlets. The group enjoyed warm relations with the AKP until 2007. Then its outlets began reporting details of the Deniz Feneri scandal, the biggest charity corruption case in German history. Billions of dollars raised by this Islamist charity, Dogan newspapers announced, had found their way into AKP coffers. Soon thereafter, the Turkish Ministry of Finance began investigating the group, then levied upon it the largest tax fine ever assessed on a Turkish company. The company is appealing, but if the appeal fails, it will be annihilated. 

Then there is Sabah, the second-biggest media conglomerate, which controls the largest-circulation daily in Turkey and the powerful ATV television channel. Facing bankruptcy in 2007, it went up for sale. Curiously, all but one bidder dropped out at the last minute. The bidder left standing was the Calik group, whose CEO is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak. A Qatari company, Al-Wasaeel, mysteriously swam up from nowhere to partner Calik's bid — in defiance of Turkish law, which forbids the foreign financing of the media — and two state banks led by figures close to the AKP, Halk and Vakif, lent Calik $750 million to finance the transaction, even though private banks in Turkey and abroad had declined. 

Associates of the sect leader Fethullah Gülen, who has been exiled in the US since 1998, control many of these media outlets. No one is quite sure what the reclusive Gülen's agenda really is, but there is no doubt that before the AKP came to power, he was prosecuted here for trying to establish an Islamic state. Nor is there any doubt that he is close to, and supportive of, the AKP. When Gülen is mentioned in the Western press, usually in passing, almost never is the most important fact about him noted: many Turks fear he's their Ayatollah Khomeini. I do not know if they are right. But I don't know that they're wrong, either, and the people here who tell me his influence is a major cause for concern have proved right about many things. Outside a handful of academic publications, Gülen's name is rarely mentioned in the Western media, and when it is, he is usually described — as the New York Times recently put it — as a "provincial Turkish preacher" who organises inspiring summer camps.

So far, yet close: The exiled Fethullah Gülen 

The AKP has by this means brought under its influence most of the media in Turkey, and what it hasn't purchased or neutered, it has terrified. Since taking office in 2003, Erdogan has launched an energetic series of lawsuits against Turkish journalists and cartoonists for character defamation. No one knows how many have been sued, though the number is probably in the hundreds, and Erdogan has refused to answer this question when asked in parliament. 

Then there is the hydra-headed Ergenekon case. Ergenekon, supposedly, is an ultra-nationalist terrorist gang that schemed to foment unrest in Turkey by blowing up mosques full of supplicants, shooting down Greek fighter planes and assassinating the Turkish Nobel laureate for literature Orhan Pamuk. The unrest unleashed by this, according to prosecutors, was to be used as a pretext to topple the AKP. A sprawling investigation into this alleged network of shadowy coup-plotters has resulted in the arrest of many prominent journalists critical of the AKP, including the Ankara bureau chief of Cumhuriyet, who is still rotting in jail. Last year, in protest, the front page of Cumhuriyet was left blank but for the words: "If we go silent, who will speak?" I don't recall seeing this reported anywhere in the international press. If it was, I will assume charitably, David Cameron merely overlooked it. Surely he would not deliberately have ignored it. That would have been cynical.

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November 9th, 2011
7:11 PM
Claire, Do you actually want us to believe that a military coup happens spontaneously? That there are no plans or blueprints. All coups have a plan - who are you to say that Ergenekon is fiction? The violence that preceeded the 1980 coup was remarkably similar excluding Greek part of course. And as far as the poor generals in prison - they were the ones that created the laws that caused people to rot in jail for indeterminate lengths of time - university student socialist activists, professors and sociologists that sat in jail for years on end and than got 10+ years. They are getting what they gave and what they deserve minus the torture, so cry me a river. To other readers - for a better perspective read this link by a reuters journalist who was on trial for her reportage.

November 9th, 2011
6:11 PM
An interesting mixture of fact, cherry picked facts interspersed with fiction and omissions, and opinion, which combined removes this piece from the category of journalism. Hamas did indeed win an election in Gaza, the IHH did indeed collect aid (I assisted with this), and if I were you I'd be more concerned with the growing presence and influence of Saudi Wahabbi schools than moderate Gulen who is not as rabid as the christian missionaries of the last century. Your fear is Islam is showing and has distorted your perception. As for corruption - of course the AKP is corrupt - you name me a government anywhere that does not suffer from corruption and deceit. Your piece is insulting to the intelligence.

Danny Black
November 16th, 2010
7:11 AM
For Justice, are you joking about the Palestinians? Israel can't blow its nose without the UN getting involved. Maybe you are confusing the Palestinians with Pakistanis in Baluchistan. Johnny Hogue, you ventured outside of Istanbul much? Hmmm, Hamas took total power in 2007, violently. US and Israel apparently didn't try very hard. fewthingstoadd, The Mavi brought expired medicine and the UN human "rights" council was the one which condemned Israel as they do on a regular basis. Of course they didn't praise North Korea for tackling obesity like the chinese member for the UN health organisation did.....( Seriously... )

October 11th, 2010
6:10 AM
Excellent analysis. Gulen Cult Movement is backed by CIA. He is, according to FBI that came out during Gulen's Green Card application, a 'Major CIA Operative'. Gulen schools have been opened in critical countries from Central Asia to Africa both to show milder side of Islam and for CIA agents to move freely as 'teachers'. Gulen's media in Turkey (Zaman, Samanyolu, Aksiyon, Today's Zaman) and other AKP media (Sabah, Bugun, Yeni Safak, etc.) have been manipulating the masses while independent press have been threatened by massive tax fines ($3 billion for Dogan Media Group), journalists are self-censored, and very few opposing journalists (Tuncay Ozkan, Mustafa Balbay, ...) have been in jail for over 2 years.

October 6th, 2010
12:10 PM
Altough I agree in some parts of the article and am worried as well about the press freedom and regime danger in Turkey, I have to say that there are several wrong information in this article, which are hence, not based on sources. Such as; 1) author said: "...they do not know that there were no humanitarian supplies on the Mavi Marmara".. Q: So what is the resource for this information? Who says that there were no humanitarian supplies at the ship? 2) Author says: "Almost no one in Turkey understands any language but Turkish" Q: Again on which statistics is this information based? Not knowing the fact, I did a quick wikipedia search and saw that 12 million people speaks english as a foreign language in Turkey(17% of the population) and this number and percentage as well is way higher than some more developed countries (Russian, Japan, Mexico, China, the least but not least.. Israel (1.37%)) 3) About the Mavi marmara, Yeni Safak, Ortadogu, and Vakit (neccessary to add: these are some of the least popular newspapers in Turkey) were not the only newspapers who were against the attack of Israeli soldiers, but all the media was critizing it. (Anyway, already United Nations found Israel guilty in the subject, because of violating the international law) Just let's try to be always more honest

October 2nd, 2010
12:10 PM
Gulen is a liar, he has emassed a fortune of $25 billion by controlling media, education, military, police and politicans. This is the same approach he is doing world wide under the guise of "interfaith dialog" and "understanding". In the USA he is robbing the American taxpayers and the Gulen Movement or Hizmet manages over 140 Charter schools. Teaching our American children Turkish language and customs.

Rob Fairchild
September 30th, 2010
9:09 AM
Thank you so much for exposing how the Gulen Movement has gotten such favorable press. I long wondered about such pieces as Sabrina Tavernise's May 4, 2008 New York Times article "Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam" which was pure propaganda for Gulen's schools in Asia. The Gulen Movement is probably the best manipulator of the press that the world has ever seen. Note the paragraph in the above article beginning "I am regularly invited to lectures for foreign journalists here sponsored by the Gülen movement...." This isn't just happening in Turkey, it's happening IN THE UNITED STATES. Look at this propaganda piece that they managed to get the Texas Tribune to publish just the other day Those of you who follow these issues in Turkey, PLEASE start noticing our struggle against the Gulen Movement here in the United States. They have infiltrated our publicly-funded charter school system and now run over a hundred such schools all over the country. We are tired of journalists falling for their press releases! Their schools are no service to us, and are nothing but fronts for the Gulen Movement to grab American money and bring thousands of their followers into our country under the H1B visa system. PLEASE somebody start paying attention to, and exposing, what the Gulen Movement is really doing in the US! Ms. Berlinski....can you help us?

September 13th, 2010
9:09 PM
Great analysis and it is all true.No one in Turkey has freedom even to think as every way of enlightenment has been blocked for years and situation got even worse under the AKP regime. There is a saying in the country which is Turkish version of Descartes' famous statement:"Cogito ergo sum" meaning "I think therefore I exist.";"Dusunuyorum oyleyse vurun." meaning "I think therefore I should be shot." There is a lot to see behind the scene.

Andrew Lale
September 10th, 2010
4:09 PM
I find it hilarious that people are comparing wealth statistics between Turkey and the US. When was the last time somebody risked their life to enter the nirvana that is Turkey?

Johnny Hogue
September 6th, 2010
7:09 AM
An ex-USA cititzen, I lived in Istanbul for 7 of my 10 years here. I have seen amazing economic changes for the better. I also believe the AKP has reached a point where their power can become dangerous by nature of no significant opposition. An outstanding article regarding points about media control and fear mongering among the population by the controlled media--just like in the USA. HAMAS swept elections in Jan 2006, then the US and Israel stepped in, just like the USA did in Vietnam in the late 1950's. According to the OECD Gini reports, income INequality is nearly as high in the USA as it is in Turkey. I do not deny that there is a poor and exploited class of villagers and recent big city immigrants from the villages. That being said, if there is no middle class then how does one explain the literal explosion of ultra-chic and very modern shopping malls in major cities, especially Istanbul? Carrefour is almost everywhere. Hepsiburada is doing a booming business, I see mobile phones and laptops everywhere.

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