We cannot understand how suffocating the media atmosphere is here in Turkey right now by simply analyzing the government’s intolerant attitude. What Yavuz said about his colleagues’ reaction is another element heightening this atmosphere. Many people simply turn a blind eye to injustices done to their friends; they don’t even call them. There is another thing: This ever-growing army of unemployed journalists cannot find jobs in other media outlets. Once you are fired for “political reasons” you have quite a difficult time finding work in another newspaper. From Hasan Cemal to Mehmet Altan, there are so many veteran journalists and columnists who either do not write anywhere or pen articles free of charge for web news portals. There are of course some circles in the media who try to show this human eating machine as though it is a routine in which newspapers just try to get rid of people with whom they are not satisfied. The current situation is far from this; so many media outlets are willing to sacrifice their most popular writers and anchors just to avoid angering the government for this or that reason. So many media bosses have very profitable other businesses with the government. Their dependency lies at the heart of the problem. The media ship in Turkey has long passed the stage at which it was sending out an SOS; it is now simply sinking!
AKP has the numbers, and the owners of the media have to do business with the government. Newspapers and TV stations ignored the demonstrations until yesterday. There are a few critical columnists left; many have lost their jobs. There is no independent bourgeoisie: business cannot be conducted without the good will of the government. And, it has to be admitted, Erdoğan is a consummate politician. He does not delegate, he has full control of his party and all that the government does. There is no opposition politician who comes close to his monstrous appetite for politicking. The so-called social media and the brand of politics that characterises the younger generation, however, are a novel presence in the Turkish arena. This week will tell us more about their potential.
*** It should be needless to say at this point but just so someone who thinks this is somehow a profound comment doesn’t feel like they have to point it out fifty times in the comments section: OF COURSE REVOLUTIONS ARE MULTI-CAUSAL, COMPLEX EVENTS AND THE COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE DOES NOT CAUSE THE UNDERLYING GRIEVANCES BUT RATHER IT HELPS STRUCTURE WHAT KIND OF, IF ANY, COLLECTIVE ACTION IS ORGANIZED AROUND THE GRIEVANCES.
(Sorry for the all-caps but I spent the 2011 “Arab Spring” year having to respond to people who felt compelled to keep saying political uprisings are about social, economic and cultural grievances as if there were actual serious people who claimed otherwise–and as if that fact meant the communicative infrastructure was irrelevant which is either the view of a naive person who has never lived under a censorship regime where it becomes blindingly obvious why communication infrastructure matters–yes, all the way back to 1848 and even the French revolution as those stories are intertwined with the development of print, telegraph, railroads (which carry news and newspapers), etc.)
The polarization of the state could be plainly seen in the reporting of the Gezi Park protests. The protests appear to have emboldened once critical newspapers such as Hurriyet to reassume an anti-ruling party stance unseen in the recent years of Erdogan’s media taming. Hurriyet has broadcast Erdogan’s “defeat” with headlines such as “Erdogan no longer almighty.” On the other end of the political spectrum, the state-funded news agency Anatolia is reporting the protests as a “brawl” between police and firework-throwing youth extremists, while stressing a democratic message that the government permitted the Republican People’s Party to demonstrate in Taksim. Far more interesting is reporting from the Justice and Development Party’s traditional sources of support. Yeni Safak, a newspaper close to the ruling party, has condemned the park project and sympathized with the protesters. The same was seen in Zaman newspaper, run by followers of the moderate Islamist Gulen movement. The Gulenists form a crucial component of the ruling party’s broader support base but also keep their distance from the ruling party. The movement has been increasingly critical of Erdogan, strongly suggesting that he and his party have become too powerful. Editorials from the newspaper admonished Erdogan for his “excessive” behavior and sided with the protesters.