This column was originally submitted to Today’s Zaman, but was rejected by the new management. Ihsan Yilmaz is the founding president of the Istanbul Institute, a think tank based in Turkey, and was a columnist for Today’s Zaman.
Just before I wrote my last piece for Today’s Zaman, there were rumors that the Zaman daily, written in Turkish, and Today’s Zaman, would be seized by the government. Thus, I wrote that if that happens, “about 90% of media coverage would directly or indirectly be in [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s hands. What does that mean? This means no one will ever be able to defeat him and his party in any election. This means a death warrant for Turkish democracy. No one will have the chance to learn about the mistakes of the [Justice and Development Party] AKP. In this Orwellian nightmare, even the mistakes of the AKP will be sold to voters as its great successes. For instance, even though Turkey is now divided in two, the AKP will successfully convince its voters that Turkey has gotten rid of its ineffective parts and is now ready to be stronger and conquer the world. Even as of today, the AKP has about 40% of the voters, and they would swallow this stupid propaganda despite the news coverage of non-AKP media. Imagine how many more could start believing AKP fabrications after these media outlets are turned into mouthpieces of the AKP?”
I also added that: “In such a setting, no party other than the AKP will ever be able to convince the AKP’s voters, who now make up about 50-55% of the electorate, that they are not working for the CIA. Turkey will continue to hold elections, but similar to Iran, only Erdoğan-approved candidates will be able to contest. In the meantime, Erdoğan will continue to deal with his NATO allies, the West, the EU, etc., with his infamous stick and carrot policies…”
Well, the AKP regime has indeed seized those two newspapers and as it did with the Bugün daily, the Millet daily, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV, which it seized them several months ago, it transformed these critical media outlets into mouthpieces of the AKP government. And, as I claimed, neither the US government nor the EU or NATO governments could seriously criticise the AKP regime for its seizure of the country’s best-selling Turkish and English dailies. These two dailies have joined many others in becoming the Orwellian propaganda and brainwashing tools of the AKP regime but all these Western governments could say is that they are concerned about the developments. It is like a joke. It is similar to seeing a murderer slaughtering a human and instead of doing anything, just saying that you are concerned that this person might be harmed.
As a result of the AKP seizure of the Zaman daily, Today’s Zaman, the Bugün daily, the Millet daily, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV, and the forced closure of STV, SHaber and a few others, the AKP indeed controls 90% of media coverage in Turkey. What is more, the AKP regime has also seized the biggest news private news agency in Turkey, the Cihan news agency. Cihan has been the only private news agency to monitor elections and report from every ballot box. For the last two elections, the efforts of the state news agency, the Anatolia news agency, to manipulate the results were neutralized by Cihan’s objective coverage of the counting of the votes. Now, it is in the hands of the AKP. It is crystal clear that Turkish voters will not have a chance to monitor the elections results, given the fact that the opposition parties are very weak and their members who work at the ballot boxes on elections day could easily be made pro-AKP with all sorts of stick and carrot methods that the AKP is infamously known for.
All in all, Turkey will never be able to have genuine elections and Turkey will never be able to count the votes fairly. Now, the AKP wants to change the Constitution with a referendum to create a presidential system without checks and balances. The AKP can easily get 60% of the vote to approve such a tyrannical system under the current conditions. Our NATO allies will continue to be concerned about such a despotic regime, but on the other hand, they will happily continue to work with such a regime.
What a shame.
Please keep me “anonymous”….. My respect for this article. I am afraid you are right and I feel ashamed to be an EU citizen, which let this all to happen …………. and I am concerned for the Turkish people’s future. There will not be much support for them. And sorry to say, tourists will stay away from Turkey, Also EU-people who want to live in Turkey for longer peiods than 3 months-visa-time will stay away, because of the very complicated way and demands for the “ikamet” ……………..I wish all the best for the Turkish people