Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 19 spoke about a visit he received from Turkish media mogul Aydin Dogan, the owner of Dogan media group, which Erdogan said was aimed at threatening him into collaborating with Dogan.
Erdogan also slammed a headline in the Hurriyet daily, the flagship newspaper of the Dogan media group, which announced Morsi’s death sentence along with picture of Erdogan.
“Look Dogan, let me tell you this. Didn’t you come to visit me at Conrad Hotel and say ‘I earned fivefold under your leadership’? Dogan told me ‘I worked with ex-prime ministers like Suleyman Demirel, Tansu Ciller, Turgut Ozal. Ozal said he was neither with nor without media. Ciller was unable to cope with us,” said Erdogan, referring the relations between former leaders of governments and Dogan media group.
Hurriyet published a headline on its news website on May 16 which wrote “He was chosen with 52 percent. They sentenced him to death,” along with a picture of Erdogan, who is Turkey’s first publicly elected president and won 52 percent of the vote.
Accusing the Dogan media group of being disrespectful to the nation’s will and choice, Erdogan said “When Dogan told me this, I told him ‘I am indebted only to God and owe nothing to you. You will get your due under our governing. But you will get nothing from us that you don’t deserve. You should know that.’ They are the printed and visual media which has been used to overthrow and form governments.”
A complaint was published by Hurriyet due to Erdogan’s criticism of the headline, claiming that the headline only concerned the death penalty given to Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi which was ordered by an Egyptian court on May 16.
“It would be dishonorable to imply that an elected president could be executed. As such, your statement about us is an unfair and baseless accusation,” Hurriyet wrote in its complaint.
A conflict between Erdogan and the Dogan media group has been continuing for several years, from the beginning of Erdogan’s political career.
A headline of Hurriyet once said “He cannot even be a village headman,” after a Turkish court sentenced Erdogan to prison in 1998 on charges that he “incited the public to hatred and animosity” after he recited a modified version of a famous poem.
Referring previous headlines in Hurriyet, Erdogan said “We know these media groups. They threatened us with Morsi’s fate during the Gezi events. Now they repeat the same threat over the death sentence. They have in their minds to come to power as a military junta, to hang the men of the people, to seize power with a coup, increase the number of martyrs, and to put the representatives of the people in jail and seek a death penalty for them in trials.”
The Dogan media group has been criticised by the government and others of playing a leading role in military coups in Turkey.
Past headlines in Hurriyet under criticism
Hurriyet has been accused by its detractors of helping pave the way for past military coups and encouraging illegal interventions into politics.
“During the 1960 military coup, there were plenty of accusations of corruption towards the deceased Hasan Polatkan [Finance Minister of the then government]. Hurriyet newspaper was again playing the lead role in this matter with headlines such as ‘4 Million liras were found to be embezzled by Polatkan’s!’, ‘Corruptions related to Polatkan have been revealed,’ ” said Markar Esayan, an Armenian journalist in Turkey, in his column in the Yeni Safak newspaper on Jan. 7.
“When Polatkan, who stood trial before the coup benefactors and was executed on September 16, 1961 without even giving a statement because the there was no time allocated for it, and other politicians were revealed to be innocent later on, their reputation were restored,” Esayan said.
Another Hurriyet headline on Feb. 10, 2008 which has also been criticised was “411 Hands Raised for Chaos,” referring to the passing of a law in the Turkish parliament, led by then prime minister Erdogan, lifting the ban on headscarves in universities, seen as a major issue by a large segment of Turkish society.
Following the passing of that law, a state prosecutor pursued the closure of Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on March 18, 2008, on the charge that the party violated the principle of the “separation of religion and state in Turkey,” and the closure request failed to be pass by only one vote from the 11 supreme court judges.