Turkey’s hardline President Recep Erdogan is bringing down the hammer on the country’s media following on from the failed coup earlier this month. More than 130 media outlets, including 16 television stations, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, are being shut down as the Turkish government moves to consolidate its power. It follows on from the closure of other media outlets associated with the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally turned bitter foe.
Erdogan and his supporters have accused Gulen of being behind the coup, a charge Gulen has vehemently denied. Since the events of July 15, when tanks rolled onto Turkish streets and the state broadcaster TNT was temporarily taken over by a cadre of officers, Erdogan has been unsparing in his round-up of those believed to be a part of the plot to overthrown his ruling AK party. More than 60,000 soldiers, police, teachers, judges, civil servants and others have been detained, suspended, or placed under investigation.
Even before the events of July 15, there had been a crackdown on media freedoms along with several deadly explosions in the country killing more than 200 people had died in blasts in Istanbul and Ankara in recent months. The Turkish tourism industry is also in crisis. Once the sixth most traveled to country in the world, visitor numbers are expected to be down 40% this year, according to local figures. A diplomatic crisis with former ally Russia over Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet on the border with Syria — and Turkey’s refusal to apologize — has been a large factor in that fall. Turkey has also been fighting what it called a Kurdish militant insurgency and has also been sucked into the morass that is the Syrian conflict.
A crackdown by the increasingly hardline Turkish government earlier this year against opposition media outlets had left many in the country worried over press freedoms. Earlier this year, the headquarters of the Feza Media Group, which publishes Turkey’s largest circulation daily Zaman, was stormed by police and placed under state control. Hundreds of protesters, who had arrived at the paper’s HQ, were dispersed by riot police using tear gas and water cannons.
Ironically, since the failed military coup, opponents of Erdogan’s authoritarian rule have actually stood side by side with AK party members in protest during daily demonstrations aimed at preserving Turkey’s democracy. They have been united- despite their own significant differences- by their desire to avoid going back to the era of Turkish military rule.
Turkey remains a big and attractive market for both Western and regional film and TV companies. A+E, Sony Pictures TV and Discovery have all launched Turkish-language TV channels. In April, Korean film group CJ-CGV acquired leading Turkish theater chain Mars Cinema in a deal reported to be worth $687 million.