World famous linguist and activist Noam Chomsky has said a government-led takeover of five critical media outlets only days ahead of key parliamentary elections is a "disgrace," criticizing the Turkish government for its authoritarian proclivities.
"That's a disgrace," Chomsky said in a written statement to protest the pre-election crackdown on media outlets critical of the government. Turkish riot police stormed the headquarters of two TV channels, Kanaltürk and Bugün TV, two newspapers, the Bugün and Millet dailies and Kanaltürk radio station on Tuesday, later halting the publication of the newspapers and cutting off the broadcast of the TV and radio channels.
The TV stations had been a major platform for opposition candidates to voice their criticisms against the government, especially since TRT, the state-run broadcaster, has barely given them screen time in favor of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). The EU and the US denounced the media takeover while rights bodies, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Amnesty International condemned the move. Freedom House characterized the takeover as an act of censorship that undermines the fairness of the Nov. 1 elections.
Chomsky described the seizure of the five outspoken media outlets as “another ugly sign of deplorable authoritarian tendencies.”
The new management of the media outlets said the newspapers will be published on Friday without columnists. The Bugün daily's website started covering President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a favorable way, a sign that it will become another government mouthpiece.
Chomsky characterized the pre-election critical media crackdown, which includes this week's seizure of a major media group, as “very ominous developments.”
US experts voice concern over media takeover in Turkey
US experts have voiced concern over the Turkish government's hostile takeover of a major critical media organization, with some likening the move to those taken during the days of Turkish military rule.
“The takeover of media properties, irrespective of their affiliation, in Turkey today especially on the eve of elections is reminiscent of the days when the country was ruled by the military,” Henri Barkey, who is one of the leading Turkey analysts in Washington, said.
Stressing that the ipek Media Group outlets seized by the government did not encourage violence, Barkey -- the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center -- said shutting them down or taking them over is contrary to everything the AK Party promised it would do when it came to power.
While former US Ambassador to Ankara Jim Jeffrey called the takeover another worrisome development for Turkey, well-known Turkey and the Middle East expert in Washington, Dr. Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said what happened in Turkey “isn't terribly surprising.”
“It is merely an escalation of the Turkish government's efforts to establish political control by silencing critical voices in the press,” he said. The expert also has doubts that Ankara will be forced to pay a price for this violation of democratic norms. “Europe needs Turkey's help concerning the refugee crisis and the [US President Barack] Obama administration has long been curiously passive when it comes to the Turkish leadership's political excesses,” he added.
Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday