Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turkey: No More (Or Not Much) Free Media

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By Barry Rubin

Soner Cagaptay, perhaps the world's best analyst on contemporary Turkey, writes:

"Independent media outlets [in Turkey] receive daily calls from the prime minister's office to adjust their coverage to favor the AKP [the ruling Islamist party], lest they face punitive fines. Self-censorship is so rife that outlets now "clean up" their acts without the need for AKP interference.

''A recent incident involved Oktay Eksi...who served for three decades as chief columnist of the country's most influential daily, Hurriyet. After writing an unbecoming column about the AKP leaders, Eksi was forced to "resign" when AKP chair and Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to "fight back." Hurriyet's owner, the Dogan Group, faces a $3.3 billion tax fine for anti-government activity--a sum larger than Dogan's net worth; another fine may finish it off. So much for independent media."

Step by step--in the schools, media, control over courts, and every other aspect of life--the AKP regime is moving toward imposing a semi-dictatorship, something that's going on virtually unnoticed in official Western circles.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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