Turkish Politics and the News I: A Putinesque Muzzling of the Media

February 23, 2009
Last week, the Turkish ministry of Finance fined the Doğan media group 826 million Turkish Liras ($490 million), the result of the state's investigation into the company's taxes. The fine, which is the largest ever assessed a company in Turkey, is larger than the company's entire estimated value. The company has vowed to appeal the ruling, which will cripple the media group if allowed to stand.
This news comes in the wake of a series of events taking place in Turkey which, in some ways, are reminiscent of efforts undertaken by the Kremlin in recent years to bring independent media in Russia under state control. Whereas in the case of Russia such efforts have been roundly (and justifiably) criticized in the western media, the increasingly interventionist approach of Turkey's AK Party (whose Turkish initials stand for Justice and Development, or Adalet and Kalkınma) government vis-a-vis the country's independent media has been largely ignored.

Turkish Politics and the News II: the Ergenekon investigation

February 23, 2009
At the end of my post yesterday, I wrote that western media correspondents covering Turkey are failing to look closely enough at the efforts of the AK Party to silence media criticism. Indeed, Western (and particularly American) correspondents continue to see the Turkish military as the main threat to democracy and press freedom in Turkey--and the military is, of course, an important threat in this respect. But the AK Party itself, as I discussed yesterday, is also showing a troubling tendency to silence its press critics. As has been the case in Russia in recent years, this is being done through state-sponsored purchases of media companies whose media outlets criticize the state, and through seemingly targeted investigations into their tax payments. Unlike Russia, however, the AK Party government tends to receive generally good press in the American media, which continues to view the party as an important counterweight to the anti-democratic impulses of the military.
Nowhere has this tendency to focus on the military and ignore the AK Party been more pronounced than in American coverage of the Ergenekon trial.

Turkish Politics and the News III: A Newspaper Called Taraf and its Many Foreign Fans

February 23, 2009
This is the third and final post in my "Turkish Politics and the News" trilogy. I hope it's been as fun for you as it has been for me. In my first post from a couple of days ago, I wrote about the machinations which had brought ATV-Sabah, the second largest media group in Turkey, under the control of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyıp Erdoğan's son-in-law, and the attacks that the largest media holding company in Turkey, the Doğan Media Group, is now facing from Turkey's finance ministry.  In my post yesterday, I discuss the Ergenekon trial, and my concerns that it is being used to not only unearth secrets from Turkey's "Deep State," but also to attack the opposition.
Today I'm going to talk about American coverage of Turkish politics, as well as discuss a newspaper, Taraf, which is becoming increasingly influential among foreign observers of Turkey.

Seeing Islam in the Violence

February 22, 2009
In the Washington Post this morning there were two stories which caught my eye. Both of them, unfortunately, related to murder. The first related to the efforts of Muslim organizations in the United States to speak out against domestic violence in the United States. These efforts were spurred, in part, as a response to the beheading of Aasiya Zubair Hassan in Orchard Park, NY, a suburb of Buffalo. Hassan's husband, Muzzammil, has been charged in the murder.
The second story I noticed was about the arrest of an 11 year-old boy in Wampun, Pennsylvania. Authorities there say that the child had been charged, as an adult, in the murder of his father's 26 year-old girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant. The 11 year-old who was charged with the murder is believed to have shot the woman with a "youth model 20-guage shotgun." The gun, which apparently belonged to the boy, "is designed for children, and such weapons do not have to be registered."

Kurdish protests mark 18th anniversary of Ocalan's arrest

February 15, 2009
Protests took place today across Turkey to mark the tenth anniversary of the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ӧcalan in Kenya. Ӧcalan was later brought to trial and imprisoned on the island of İmralı in the Marmara Sea, where he is the only prisoner in residence. Pictures taken of demonstrations taking place in Batman, a city in southeastern Turkey, can be seen here
Abdullah Ocalan in the 1990s