Erdogan corners media market as supporter takes over Hurriyet newspaper, CNN Turk

Following the transaction, 21 of Turkey’s 29 daily newspapers will be under the control of companies that back Erdogan.
Wednesday 28/03/2018
Logo of Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper at the Dogan media group complex in Istanbul on March 22. (AFP)
Logo of Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper at the Dogan media group complex in Istanbul on March 22. (AFP)

ISTANBUL - Demiroren Holding, an unlisted Turkish firm seen as backing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has agreed to buy the respected Hurriyet newspaper and broadcaster CNN Turk, an official said, a deal that could further guarantee media support for the government.

Demiroren agreed to buy the media arm of Dogan Holding, a Demiroren official said. The official declined to be identified because the deal has not been made public.

The official did not give a price for the transaction, adding that would be officially announced later.

“The talks are progressing and an agreement has been made on the acquisition,” the official said.

A representative for Hurriyet, which also publishes an English-language newspaper, the Hurriyet Daily News, said: “Personnel are currently being informed. A detailed statement on the transaction will be made to the Istanbul stock exchange today.”

Shares of Dogan Holding jumped more than 17% to 0.85 lira ($0.22) and its newspaper arm, Hurriyet Gazetecilik, rose 19% to 1.22 lira ($0.31) after news of the deal broke.

Dogan Holding’s media arm and its octogenarian founder, Aydin Dogan, have long been considered part of Turkey’s secular establishment. Erdogan has repeatedly accused the company of bias against his Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party, charges the company denied.

The deal marks an “increasing monopolisation of opinion,” said Andrew Finkel, a veteran Turkey commentator and the author of “Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

“It is the end of an era. Dogan tried to do this balancing act of being sort of oppositional but not so much that the government would interfere,” Finkel said.

In 2009, Dogan Media was fined $2.5 billion in unpaid taxes, in what government opponents saw as an attempt to crush media criticism of Erdogan. Following the tax bill, Aydin Dogan was forced to sell the group’s Milliyet and Vatan newspapers, to Demiroren as it turned out. Since then, the papers have adopted a strong pro-government stance.

Following the transaction, 21 of Turkey’s 29 daily newspapers will be under the control of companies that back Erdogan, the left-wing Birgun newspaper said, estimating that 90% of Turkey’s newspaper circulation will be pro-government.

Rights groups and some of Turkey’s Western allies sharply criticised the country’s record on media freedom and human rights following a widespread crackdown after a failed coup in July 2016.

The United Nations called on Ankara to end its 20-month-old state of emergency, imposed after the coup and accused it of mass arrests, arbitrary sacking and other abuses.

Turkey has said the UN report was full of unfounded allegations and compared the criticism to militant propaganda.

The Turkish Journalists Association says that as of January, there were 154 journalists in jail. The crackdown has seen dozens of independent media outlets shut down for what the government says are links to terrorism.

In one recent high-profile case, a court sentenced six journalists to life in prison for aiding plotters of the attempted coup, charges the journalists denied.

Turkey has arrested some 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since the coup attempt, the United Nations says. Ankara says its measures are necessary, given the severity of the security threats it faces.

(Reuters)