‘Why Turkey’s mainstream media chose to show penguins rather than protests’ | K. Oktem- The Guardian

‘Why Turkey’s mainstream media chose to show penguins rather than protests’ | K. Oktem- The Guardian

The failure to cover the initial events around Taksim, where tens of thousands of youth and political activists engaged in street battles with police indiscriminately firing teargas bombs, was one of the triggers of public outcry and solidarity among Istanbulites. But how come the news did not get out even though all major media outlets had live transmission vehicles on the ground, and reporters were trying to do their job – being tear-gassed and subjected to police violence in the process?

The answer lies in the ownership structure of the main media companies and government interference with editorial policy. All major media groups in Turkey are now part of larger corporations with diversified interests ranging from banking to the hospitality sector. They depend on government contracts and are therefore under pressure to make amends. A forceful reminder of this unhealthy relationship between media patrons and the government was the tax evasion case brought against the (more independent) Doğan Media Company in 2009, owner of the flagship TV channels Kanal D and CNN Turk and two of Turkey’s most influential right- and left-wing liberal newspapers Hürriyet and Radikal. The Tax Office issued an unprecedented fine of $3.2bn. While the fine was eventually lowered, more court cases were brought against the company, which in turn had to sell some of its smaller operations. Yet, the real price paid cannot be measured in money but in the loss of editorial freedom.

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