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heO ri
so fan
ralS t

Media in New Turkey

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The Geopolitics
of Information

Edited by Dan Schiller,

Pradip Thomas, and Yuezhi Zhao

A list of books in the series appears

at the end of this book.

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Media in New Turkey
The Origins of an Authoritarian
Neoliberal State

Bilge Yesil

University of Illinois Press

Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield

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© 2016 by the Board of Trustees
of the University of Illinois
All rights reserved
1 2 3 4 5 C P 5 4 3 2 1
∞ This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016938747

ISBN 978-0-252-04017-7 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-252-08165-1 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-252-09837-6 (e-book)

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To Katya and Jeffrey
and in loving memory of my brother and my father

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Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction  1

1. Politics and Culture in Turkey  17

2. Political Economic Transformation of
Media in the 1990s  31
3. Containing Kurdish Nationalism and
Political Islam in the 1990s  51
4. The AKP Era: Between the Market and the State  72
5. The Remaking of the Media-Military-State
Relationships in the Early Twenty-First Century  88
6. Gezi Park Protests, Corruption Investigation,
and the Control of the Online Public Sphere  107
Conclusion  127
Epilogue  143

Notes  147
Bibliography  171
Index  209

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Writing this book has presented certain challenges. Given the ex-
tremely fast-paced nature of political developments in Turkey, I found myself
constantly updating the manuscript and making every effort to include the
latest available information. I also walked a fine line between the need to
explain deep-rooted issues in their full complexity and not burden the read-
ers with too much detail. Getting access to media professionals for informal
interviews has proved to be difficult given the climate of fear and the highly
politicized nature of the media industry. On a personal level, writing this
book has been especially disheartening, as I have seen the undermining of the
rule of law, the erosion of individual liberties, the imprisonment of journal-
ists, the proliferation of government propaganda, and the utter destruction
of lives (physical and symbolic) on a daily basis. Despite all these challenges,
I have been fortunate to have a wonderful community of colleagues, friends,
and family who saw me through the completion of this book. But the errors
are mine alone.
This book originated as a Mellon Seminar project in 2011–2012 at the
Center for Humanities, Graduate Center City University of New York. I
would like to express my gratitude to seminar leaders Marcela Echeverri
and Premilla Nadasen and to participants Alessandro Angelini, Moustafa
Bayoumi, Christina Christoforatou, Shelly Eversley, Kelly Josephs, Rowena
Kennedy-Epstein, Michael Mandiberg, Karen Miller, John Paul Narkunas,
and Edward Sammons for providing a nourishing intellectual environment
and giving useful feedback at a very early stage.
The Mellon Seminar project started to turn into a book in 2013 thanks to
the backing and encouragement of Cynthia Chris and Paula Chakravartty.

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I am grateful to them for introducing me to the Geopolitics of Informa-
tion series at the University of Illinois Press, and especially to Paula for her
continuous interest in this project. The series editors, Dan Schiller, Pradip
Thomas, and Yuezhi Zhao, provided excellent direction and invaluable feed-
back and steered me toward a more stimulating framework that helped me
explore the links between media, politics, culture, and economy in Turkey.
Their unwavering commitment was one of the most reassuring experiences
of my career. And for this, I am forever indebted to them.
I also acknowledge the research grants I received from the PSC-CUNY
Research Awards and the Dean’s Scholarship Award at the College of Staten
Island. In Turkey, Niyazi Dalyanci, Ferit Kayabal, and Cemile Yaltir helped me
get access to journalists, editors, and producers who opened up about their
experiences. I cannot thank them by name, for they must remain anonymous,
but I am deeply appreciative of their contributions.
I could not have completed this book without the support of Beste Atvur
and Kathleen Ryan. Beste worked tirelessly at the archives of Turkish Journal-
ists Association and unearthed even the most obscure stories. Kathy read the
entire manuscript attentively and curiously. Her incisive questions pushed
me to better explain the intricate (and sometimes mindboggling) web of
politics and religion in Turkey. Thank you, Beste and Kathy.
I am also grateful to Mine Gencel Bek, Louis Fishman, Mobina Hashmi,
Sahar Khamis, and Cindy Wong for reading portions of the manuscript and
providing much-needed feedback, and to the anonymous reviewers for giving
the most constructive criticism a scholar could hope for.
Presentations and talks at various events helped me rethink my assump-
tions and hone my arguments. Among the many colleagues who invited me
to share my ideas, I would like to thank Miriyam Aouragh, Paula Chakra-
vartty, and Jack Qiu at the Social Science Research Council Inter-Asia Pro-
gram; Ertug Tombus at the Committee for Social Research on Turkey, New
School University; Marwan Kraidy at the Project for Advanced Research
in Global Communication, University of Pennsylvania; Monroe Price and
Laura Schwarz Henderson at the Center for Global Communication Studies,
University of Pennsylvania; and Hakan Topal at the Gezi NYC Forums, New
School University. I also benefited enormously from the conversations I had
with Omar al-Ghazzi, Jaclyn Kerr, Sahar Khamis, Gholam Khiabany, Engin
Onder, Aswin Punathambekar, Marina Repnikova, Joe Straubhaar, Cemal
Burak Tansel, and Will Youmans.
It was a pleasure working with the wonderful staff at the University of
Illinois Press. First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude to my editor
Daniel Nasset for his guidance, good nature, and enthusiasm. I am also grate-

x Acknowledgments

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ful to Jennifer Comeau and Jane Curran for making the copyediting process
a smooth one, and to Jennifer Holzner for her cover design that successfully
avoided the all-too-familiar images of the mosque and the Ataturk portrait.
The writing of this book coincided with a challenging time in my life
that was indelibly marked with grief. I lost my brother, Mustafa, and then
my father, Hakki—both great men with beautiful souls. Special thanks to
Mehmet Akin, Piraye Cemiloglu, Burcu Coka, Mehmet Coka, Sue Collins,
Sibel Demirel, Bahar Eris, Funda Kalemci, Karin Karakasli, Dilhan Kellen-
berger, and Selma Savas for being there for me. At the College of Staten
Island, C. W. Anderson, Cynthia Chris, Dalia Kandiyoti, Janet Manfredonia,
Rosemary Neuner-Fabiano, Maria Rice-Bellamy, Siona Wilson, and Cindy
Wong have my gratitude for cheering me on. My mother, Sevim Yesil, and
my husband, Victor Duong, have been steadfast sources of love and support.
I am especially and deeply grateful to Victor for his patience and understand-
ing. But in the end, to my children, I owe everything. They have loved me
unconditionally and given me the gift of laughter, joy, and life. Katya and
Jeffrey, you are my rock and my light.

Acknowledgments xi

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Media in New Turkey

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In April 2015, CNN’s foreign affairs show Fareed Zakaria GPS aired
a segment on the increasing authoritarianism of Turkey’s ruling Adalet ve
Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party), or AKP. Citing the AKP’s
demonization of its opponents, expansion of police powers, and censor-
ship of the Internet, Fareed Zakaria, the show’s host, lamented Turkey’s “sad
metamorphosis from a promising role model for the entire Middle East [in]
to a textbook example of illiberal democracy.”1 Like most of his colleagues
in Western media, Zakaria was suggesting that this authoritarian turn was a
recent development and could largely be blamed on the AKP.2 In the summer
of 2013, Western media and policy circles seemed surprised when the AKP
revealed its intolerance of political dissent, free expression, and public protest
as it tried to violently repress the antigovernment Gezi Park protests. Wasn’t
the AKP the great democratizing agent that had initiated legal reforms and
demilitarized Turkish politics in the first decade of the twenty-first century?
In December 2013, the Western narrative was once again startled when a
massive corruption scandal erupted, and the AKP responded by tightening
its grip over the judiciary and banning Twitter and YouTube in an effort to
curb circulation of damaging reports and evidence. What had happened to
the Turkish model—that successful “model” country that blended Islam,
democracy, and a market economy?
Back in 2010–2011, Western media was heaping Turkey with praise, calling
it “Eurasia’s rising tiger” and an “economic miracle.”3 Such accolades were
not unwarranted; with significant economic growth and a renewed sense of
self-confidence, Turkey had emerged as a key player on the world stage.4 In
the wake of the Arab uprisings, the accolades only increased. Western policy

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makers projected the Turkish model as the counterexample to Samuel Hun-
tington’s controversial argument about the cultural divide between the West
and the Muslim world. Here was Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country,
pursuing membership in the European Union, taking steps toward demo-
cratic consolidation, and integrating with global capitalism. During an official
visit in 2011, then secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton proclaimed that
“Turkey’s democratic traditions could inspire Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and
Syria.”5 In its 2012 report, the German Marshall Fund pointed to Turkey,
Brazil, India, and Indonesia as “pivotal powers” of the twenty-first century.6
While the Turkish model was drawing praise, the country was indeed ex-
periencing serious democratic deficits, such as prosecution of activists and
journalists and criminalization of dissent, and the so-called Turkish economic
miracle was beginning to unravel.7 In 2012, the prison population had jumped
to 132,000 (from 59,429 in 2002) including journalists, university students, and
human rights activists.8 According to the Committee to Protect Journalists,
Turkey was the world leader in jailed journalists in 2012 and 2013, outpacing
Iran and China.9 Hundreds of Kurdish human rights activists, local politicians,
and journalists were held in pretrial detention based on charges of antistate
activities. Courts were busy prosecuting dozens of individuals on charges
of insulting state figures and offending the sensibilities of Muslims. Tens of
thousands of websites were blocked for content that allegedly violated the
principle of national unity and threatened family values. Dozens of prominent
journalists were fired or resigned under the AKP government’s pressures.
As a matter of fact, the AKP’s authoritarian tendencies had been in the
making for some time (not only in the media but in several other arenas),
and its much-acclaimed democratic achievements (e.g., limiting the role of
the military in politics, undertaking EU reforms, initiating the Kurdish peace
process) were riddled with contradictions while hidden behind the veneer
of the Turkish model. What the AKP had done since coming to power in
2002 was less about democratization and more about the reconsolidation of
Turkey’s enduring authoritarian political culture, only this time mixed with
the party’s particular brand of Islamism, nationalism, and neoliberalism.
Taking issue with these narratives concerning the Turkish model, the AKP,
and its authoritarianism, this book explores Turkey’s political economic,
social, and cultural terrains through the lens of the country’s media system.
Using media as a point of access to understand Turkey’s political economic
history and contemporary developments, their global import, and the under-
lying domestic and international dynamics, I analyze Turkey’s market-driven
and statist media system as a byproduct of the negotiations and tensions
between longstanding authoritarian state forms and the country’s experiences

2 Introduction

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with globalization and neoliberalization in the post-1980 era (i.e., the entry
of foreign investment and multinational corporations, the EU membership
application, and the establishment of bilateral relations with Central Asia
and the Middle East in the post–Cold War era). Based on this analysis, I
note that the current troubles with Turkey’s media system are not unusual
developments that can simply be imputed to the AKP rule, and instead point
to changes and continuities since the 1980s, especially with regard to media
ownership structures, patron-client relations, policy making and regulatory
frameworks, and the sway of a statist, nationalist ethos.
Several scholars have examined Turkey’s post-1980 transformation and
the contestations and negotiations it has generated over spheres of economy,
education, religion, and politics. Of particular interest have been the rami-
fications of this transformation on Turkish modernity and state ideology.10
Scholars have examined in detail the changing relationships between Islam,
secularism, and democracy; the interplays between Islam and nationalism;
Islam and capitalism; militaristic ideology in education and gender relations;
contemporary forms of capitalism and authoritarian neoliberal hegemony
during the AKP era; the sociopolitical dimensions of the Kurdish issue; and
more recently the Gezi Park protests.11 Yet there still remains a need for a
study that puts media front and center to illuminate Turkey’s ever-shifting
political, economic, social, and cultural landscapes within the contexts of
regional and global frameworks.
Turkey’s media system remains under-examined especially when compared
to its non-Western counterparts. Existing English language analyses that
target an international audience are generally found in journal articles and
book chapters and focus on a broad range of issues, but there remains a need
for Turkey-specific case studies.12 A special issue of the journal Turkish Studies
focuses on media and politics, though the articles are written primarily from a
political science perspective and do not fully address cultural phenomena.13 A
special issue of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication examines
media practices in Turkey with regard to politics and foreign policy.14 An ed-
ited collection, Digital Transformations in Turkey, explores online media and
communications and their linkages with Turkey’s sociopolitical and economic
specificities; however, the chapters fail to go beyond a national analysis.15 This
book aims to fill these gaps by providing a systematic analysis of Turkey’s
media system, its reconfiguration under domestic and international dynam-
ics, the political and cultural tensions it harbors, and the trajectories it shares
with other media systems around the world.
Given its commercial nature based on private ownership and free market
competition, Turkey’s media system resembles its counterparts in Europe,

Introduction 3

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Latin America, and Asia that experience similar problems stemming from
concentration, conglomeration, and clientelism. In the meantime, it finds
itself in the same league with countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia
in terms of the dominant role of the state in political economic affairs and
the contentious relationships between media, military, and political Islam.
Turkey’s media system also bears similarities to that of other authoritarian
regimes, such as Russia, with regard to the articulation of state power with
neoliberal elements. It is a hybrid system that blends commercial and statist
imperatives, which are generally regarded as contradictory forces but exist in
a symbiotic relationship. It is this notion of hybridity that I use to illuminate
the development of Turkey’s media system in the post-1980 era and in the
period between 2000 and 2015.
Rather than framing Turkish politics, economy, and culture in terms of
binary oppositions (modernity vs. tradition, secularism vs. Islam, state vs.
market), I highlight the push-pull forces of a centralized state authority and
its democratization demands, the interpenetration of state and capital, and
the overlapping of patronage structures with market imperatives. In this
focus on the convergence of domestic and global dynamics, such as the
military interventions, the neoliberal turn in the Turkish economy, the rise
of political Islam, the end of the Cold War, and Turkey’s increasing engage-
ment with global capitalism, the key questions that frame this book are as
follows: What are the political economic structures that shape Turkey’s media
system? What roles did military-bureaucratic elites play in the construction
of these structures in the 1980s and 1990s? What kind of transformations did
these structures go through during the AKP’s thirteen-year (and ongoing)
rule? What changed and what remained the same? How have media outlets,
owners, and practitioners shaped these transformations and been shaped by
them? How have they adapted to shifting contours of political and economic
power? What are the ramifications of global and regional geopolitics on the
country’s political economic conditions and the media field? What insights
does the analysis of Turkey’s media system tell us about the relationships
between the state and the capital, about the political field and Turkish de-
mocracy? Lastly, what connections can be mapped between Turkey’s media
system and those in other national contexts with regard to the imbrication
of authoritarian state forms with neoliberal practices?

Turkey’s Media Industry

Turkish media is a buzzing sphere of activity. Through a combination of
terrestrial, cable, and digital broadcasting platforms, 98 percent of the popu-

4 Introduction

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lation has access to television. With 25 national, 210 local, and close to 400
cable and satellite channels, television is the dominant source of information
and entertainment in Turkey.16 Global media corporations such as Turner
Broadcasting, News Corp, and Bloomberg are also present in the television
market via joint ventures (CNN Turk, Bloomberg HT, Fox and TNT). There
are more than a thousand radio stations (38 national, 99 regional, 923 local,
83 satellite), which air a mixture of news, music, entertainment, and sports
around the clock.17 Having come back from its economic and creative crises
of previous decades, Turkish cinema now reaches millions of viewers every
year, often beating Hollywood blockbusters at the box office. The public
broadcaster TRT is a global actor with service in several languages reaching
millions of audiences in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North
Africa. Turkish commercial television has a strong global presence selling
$50 billion of programming (mostly melodramas) to markets in the Middle
East, Central Asia, Latin America, and Europe.18 In print media, thirty-six
national and hundreds of local newspapers, as well as hundreds of peri-
odicals, publish news and commentary on politics, sports, finance, fashion,
and celebrity gossip, albeit with relatively low circulation numbers.19 Close
to half of the population (mostly the youth) is online sharing information
and opinion on social media platforms, although this online public sphere
is subject to ever-increasing restrictions.
In general, the Turkish media market is one of the fastest growing in the
world. In 2013, Price Waterhouse Coopers put the overall market value at
$11.6 billion with an annual growth rate of 11.4 percent between 2013 and
2017, approximately double the global average. Advertising spending is grow-
ing, too. Although it constitutes only 5 percent of the GDP, the advertising
sector in Turkey has registered steady growth between 2002 and 2014 (with
the exception of 2008–2009 due to the global recession). According to the
Association of Advertising Agencies of Turkey (Reklamcilar Dernegi), ad
spending in 2014 stood at close to $3.5 million, with television taking the
lion’s share (51 percent) followed by newspapers and periodicals (19 percent)
and digital being the fastest-growing medium (19 percent).20
This vibrant and growing media landscape, however, operates under
the conditions of a polarized and politicized structure, which is marked
by patron-client relationships, high levels of cross-media ownership, and
horizontal and vertical integration. In terms of their patronage relationships,
there are media outlets owned by Albayrak, Hedef ,and Kalyon groups that
are closely linked with the AKP so much so that they serve as propaganda
mouthpieces. Outlets owned by Ciner, Demiroren, Dogan, and Dogus are
tenuously considered “mainstream” since their editorial lines have been pla-

Introduction 5

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cated to varying degrees by the AKP’s “carrots and sticks” schemes since 2007.
They employ columnists and invite talk show guests from opposing political
camps in order to imply internal pluralism and objective reporting, and in
the meantime they hire editors and managers “recommended” to them by
government officials. On the other hand, media companies owned by Koza-
Ipek, Feza, and Samanyolu are closely affiliated with the Gulen community,
whose newspapers and television channels used to be pro-AKP until 2013 but
then joined the anti-AKP camp (see chapter 6). Outside these major players,
there are smaller media companies that own Kemalist/secular newspapers
and television outlets; leftist newspapers; and pro-Kurdish newspapers and
TV channels.
Regarding media economics, vertical or horizontal integration is the norm
in Turkey. The largest media conglomerate, Dogan, is vertically and horizon-
tally integrated, with newspapers, broadcasting and online outlets, television
and music production houses, and distribution, retail, printing, and publish-
ing companies. In 2007, it sold 25 percent of its shares to the German media
giant Axel-Springer. It also has joint ventures with Turner Broadcasting and
CNN. Another key player, Dogus, is also horizontally integrated with televi-
sion channels, radio, and magazine outlets, and has joint ventures with Hearst
Publishing. Ciner owns newspapers, magazines, and news channels. It is
vertically integrated with production companies and printing houses and has
a joint venture with Bloomberg TV. Feza and Samanyolu, two Islamic sister
conglomerates, are also vertically and horizontally integrated with several
newspapers, magazines, printing houses, production units, and television
and radio channels.
Due to high levels of concentration, conglomeration, and cross-ownership,
entry barriers into the media sector are extremely high. Substantial capital
investment requirements make matters worse for potential entrants, and
particularly for media companies that do not have nonmedia investments.
Though the Press Law and the Broadcasting Law provisions aim to prevent
these problems, conglomerates have always found a way to skirt restrictions.
Recent amendments to the Broadcasting Law in 2008 and 2011 reduced many
of the caps on cross-ownership and foreign direct investment, thus solidifying
the big players’ presence—a trend that resonates with the liberalization of me-
dia markets and relaxation of ownership rules on a global scale.21 Increasing
levels of concentration and conglomeration since the 1990s have also exposed
detrimental impacts on the labor conditions of media workers. Because most
outlets are controlled by a few owners, media workers endure low wages, and
in many cases waive their contractual and organizational rights out of fear of
job termination.22 The percentage of unionized journalists is 4.5 percent.23

6 Introduction

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Yesil_Text.indd 7
Table 1. Media ownership
Owner Newspaper TV News agency Nonmedia businesses
Albayrak Yeni Safak TV Net Energy, construction, logistics, textile, tourism
Ciner HaberTurk HaberTurk TV, Construction, energy, mining, tourism, health
Bloomberg TV,
Show TV
Cukurova Digiturk Construction, finance, IT, transportation, energy
(digital pay-tv)
Demiroren Milliyet, Vatan Energy, mining, construction, tourism
Dogan Hurriyet, Radikal CNNTurk, D Smart Dogan News Agency Energy, tourism, retail, industry, finance, real estate
(digital only), Posta, (digital) Kanal D
Hurriyet Daily News
Dogus NTV, Star TV, CNBC-e Automotive, banking, finance construction, energy,
  food and beverage, tourism
Hedef Aksam, Star, Gunes SkyTurk 360, 24TV Pharmaceuticals, dairy, automotive,
(Ethem Sancak)   armored vehicles
Feza and Zaman, Today’s Zaman Samanyolu, STV, Cihan News Agency
Samanyolu Mehtap
Kalyon Sabah, Takvim, Yeni Asir, ATV, A Haber Construction, energy, transportation
Daily Sabah
Koza Ipek* Bugun, Millet KanalTurk, Bugun TV Mining, agriculture, livestock, tourism, construction
Ihlas Turkiye TGRT Haber Ihlas News Agency (IHA) Construction, health, tourism, mining, logistics
Hayat&Nokta Kanal 7, Ulke TV Construction, service, education
NewsCorp Fox TV

Information compiled from Sozeri and corporate websites. See Sozeri, “Turkiye’de Medya Sahipligi ve Getirileri.”
*Koza Ipek’s newspapers and TV channels were seized by the government and their management cadres were replaced by government trustees in
October 2015. See Ant, “Turkish Opposition Papers.”

5/13/16 12:10 PM
Aside from the issues of concentration and conglomeration, Turkey’s me-
dia system is highly clientelistic and politicized. The aforementioned media
companies are part of huge nonmedia enterprises and are operated as “bar-
gaining tools” with the government for contracts, subsidies, and privatiza-
tion deals.24 Dogan Media is a unit of Dogan Group that owns companies
in finance, energy, trade, and tourism, while Ciner, Demiroren, Dogus, and
Koza-Ipek are each huge conglomerates that have commercial interests in
textile, energy, construction, finance, telecommunications, mining, transpor-
tation, or tourism. Needless to say, their dependence on government licenses
to conduct business in these sectors makes them extremely vulnerable to
financial pressures from the government and aggravates the problem of in-
strumentalization. Since television channels and newspapers owned by these
conglomerates are primarily operated as political tools, it is not uncommon to
see their editorial lines shift with changing political economic circumstances.
Therefore a pro-government media outlet becoming the government’s most
vocal critic literally overnight is not an oddity in Turkey, as in the case of
Zaman newspaper when it parted ways with the AKP in December 2013 (see
chapter 6).
Obviously, problems of clientelism, partisanship, and instrumentalization
are not unique to Turkey. However, their effects are amplified by Turkey’s
restrictive legal framework. The highly politicized judiciary, through broad
interpretations of the Press Law, the Internet Law, and the Broadcasting Law,
as well as application of the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law provisions,
criminalizes media practitioners, bans and confiscates publications, shuts
down websites, and prosecutes writers, publishers, and artists. Among the
charges brought against media and cultural producers (as well as individu-
als who express their opinions on social media) are for spreading Kurdish
propaganda, harming Turkey’s national security and territorial integrity,
inciting hatred and enmity among the Turkish public, insulting state institu-
tions, undermining the moral values of Turkish society, and insulting Islam
and the Prophet Muhammad.25
Another constraining force on media practitioners in Turkey has been
the military and its national security paradigm. As I discuss in upcoming
chapters, the sway of the military cannot simply be understood as a product
of direct coercion on editors, publishers, and journalists but must rather be
explored in relation to the persistence of a statist, nationalist ideology in the
public sphere; the sociocultural linkages between media professionals and
military officers based on shared aspirations of a secular, modern, Western-
ized nation-state; and media proprietors’ long-standing political economic
alliances with the military-bureaucratic establishment. An obvious mani-

8 Introduction

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festation of this complex web of relationships transpired in the 1990s when
mainstream media turned a blind eye to the military’s “dirty war” against
Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey, avoided critical investigative
work into the Turkish Armed Forces, published the so-called news provided
by the military, and defamed those journalists who dared to take a critical
stance toward the army (see chapter 3).

Turkey’s Political System

Turkey is a parliamentary democracy, which has held multiparty elections
since 1950. However, it remains under the weight of a strong state tradition
that prioritizes the protection of the state over individual rights and free-
doms.26 The roots of this political system can be traced back to 1923 and the
founding of the modern Turkish Republic as well as the ensuing nation-build-
ing project, undertaken by Kemal Ataturk and his fellow military officers and
high-level bureaucrats. Predicated on the principles of statism (the primacy
of and reverence for the state), nationalism, secularism, and Westernization,
the republican project centralized the power of the state, built a national
economy, eliminated Islam from public life, suppressed ethnic and religious
minorities, and denied a host of individual freedoms and liberties along the
way.27 As Umit Cizre notes, the Kemalist founders pursued a populist and
corporatist agenda, combined with a doctrine of popular sovereignty, and
used the principle of “the centrality of obligations and duties to the public
realm to limit social conflicts and to delegitimize class, ethnic, sectarian,
and gender differences.” Therefore, Turkish democracy emerged as a system
based not on the prioritization of respect for the rule of law, civil society, and
individual rights, but on the promotion of national unity and state interests.28
From the early days of the republic, the principle of “state preservation”
defined the Turkish political system. In practice, this principle depends on a
particular definition of “state.” As Dina Matar notes, the social sciences tend
to view the state as a unitary actor or as an actor with certain broad core
interests and positions, but this conventional perspective does not apply to
Turkey.29 In the Turkish context, the state has a particular definition. While
the term “government” refers to the elected civilian authority, “the state” re-
fers specifically to entrenched bureaucratic, military, and judicial structures
and institutions. Matar’s cautionary note is especially pertinent here: that
we cannot analyze the state through sets of binary oppositions (e.g., state/
society, public/private, formal/informal), but instead must understand it as
a “contradictory entity that is in itself subject to competing interests and
struggles.”30 This is especially true in the case of Turkey. The Turkish state is

Introduction 9

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not a concrete or a monolithic entity but comprises a group of actors who
establish pacts contingent upon developments of the day, pacts that are there-
fore subject to radical shifts at critical junctures. Traditionally, the Turkish
state has included bureaucrats, governors, security forces, the intelligence
community, or members of the judiciary, generally aligned with the Kemal-
ist ideology to varying degrees. The military has independently seen itself
as the guardian and acting enforcer agent of the state. Elected politicians,
especially those on the center-right and center-left, oftentimes submitted to
or willingly entered into alliances with state actors, not simply because of the
constant threat of their being overthrown by the military but because they
themselves were among the advocates of the state-centric, nationalist, and
secularist ethos.

Authoritarian Neoliberal Order

The AKP came to power in 2002 based on the promise of democratization
and economic prosperity. In line with its strong affinity for market logic, it
worked closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and undertook
a program of cutting public spending, controlling wages, limiting agricul-
tural support, and privatizing state-owned enterprises.31 It attracted investors
from the Gulf region and generated considerable sums of capital inflow from
the West, further connecting Turkey to the global political economy.32 The
AKP also undertook a series of reforms to improve the governance system.
Beginning in 2005, the AKP-led Parliament passed a series of laws as part
of “harmonization packages” to bring Turkey in line with EU standards. A
consequence of these legal reforms was the curbing of military power in poli-
tics. Under AKP rule, not only the military but also the state went through
a transformation. The AKP government, by amending laws and regulations
and passing “decree laws” without parliamentary approval, rearranged the
composition of high courts, placed like-minded judges in key positions, and
appointed AKP-friendly governors, bureaucrats, and administrators in dif-
ferent branches of the state. The AKP’s administrative and judicial reforms
in its first term have therefore changed the makeup of the state, replacing
many of the Kemalists with pro-Islamic actors.
The AKP’s second term, beginning in 2007, was marked by a slowdown
in EU reforms, a failure to address the issue of Kurdish ethnic rights, the
prosecution of thousands of university students and union members criti-
cal of its policies, the imprisonment of journalists, politicians, and human
rights activists, and the undermining of media freedoms.33 In its third term
(2011–2015), the AKP seemingly achieved political rapprochement with the

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military and was engaged in peace talks with the Kurdish political commu-
nity, albeit with shaky results. Yet in 2013 the anti-government Gezi Park
protests and the revelations about a massive corruption scandal that impli-
cated Prime Minister Erdogan and his inner circle rocked Turkish politics,
and since then the AKP has found its moral legitimacy subject to constant
interrogation. Police brutality and Erdogan’s heavy-handed approach toward
Gezi protestors, the AKP’s utter lack of respect for the rule of law during the
corruption investigation, and Erdogan’s use of an extremely populist rhetoric
polarizing society along ideological, class, and sectarian lines have led several
analysts to describe Turkey as an “illiberal democracy” and to identify these
developments as Turkey’s authoritarian turn. However, as I show throughout
this book, the AKP’s authoritarian impulse had been in the making for some
time, and its commitment to democracy had been questionable even when
it was undertaking EU reforms.
After Erdogan’s ascension to the presidency in August 2014, AKP officials,
pro-government media, and Erdogan himself began to stress the birth of a
“New Turkey.” Though there is no clear definition of the term, it is generally
understood as a new political order where power is held by the elected gov-
ernment, not the military or the judiciary.34 It also implies a new sociocultural
order in which the remaining vestiges of top-down Westernization will be
replaced by Muslim nationalism and neo-Ottoman revivalism, and the coun-
try will return to its roots. Erdogan has argued that to enable this transition,
Turkey needs to institute a new political model with an empowered executive
branch. This proposed model, which critics refer to as a super-presidency,
calls for an unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of one man
and is obviously cause for alarm regarding the separation of powers. Yet, as
Larry Diamond reminds us, Turkey had already been “pushed below the
minimum standards of democracy” long before Erdogan proposed this new
presidential model. Antidemocratic developments of 2007–2010, such as the
AKP’s crackdown on dissidents and journalists, financial reprisals on media
companies, expansion of police and surveillance powers, to name just a few,
had already subjected Turkish democracy to a gradual erosion.35
To describe the weakening of the rule of law and decline of freedoms in
Turkey, several analysts began to use the term “illiberal democracy.” The
term, introduced by Fareed Zakaria, describes political regimes in which free
elections take place, but civil liberties are compromised, governmental power
is not limited by liberal democratic principles, and media independence is
restricted.36 In this regard, illiberal democracies bear similarities with “hybrid
regimes,” in which freedom of speech and rights of assembly and associa-
tion are not protected, and “elected officials’ authoritarian tendencies [are

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masked or legitimated by] formal democratic political institutions such as
multi-party elections.”37
These two closely linked terms help us grasp the democratic shortcom-
ings in Turkey (and in several other countries), yet they do not address the
role of neoliberal ideology and practices that constitute a common building
block of these illiberal or hybrid regimes. To offer a more nuanced analysis
of the Turkish experience, instead of the recently popular term “illiberal de-
mocracy,” I prefer to use “authoritarian neoliberalism.”38 As Ian Bruff notes,
this term, premised on Nicos Poulantzas’s and Stuart Hall’s work, not only
helps us understand the mixing of the strong state with free market politics
but more importantly the “reconfiguring of state and institutional power in
an attempt to insulate certain policies and institutional practices from social
and political dissent.”39 It particularly draws on the concept of “authoritarian
statism” that Poulantzas introduced to capture the essence of state forms
that emerged in the late 1970s in the face of crises of capitalism, therefore
preventing us from imputing the curtailment of democratic rights to state or
political actors alone and instead directing our attention to the nexus of the
political and the economic. Considering the contemporary Turkish political
economic order as authoritarian neoliberalism helps us to consider the state
not merely as a repressive entity, but as one that fosters the restructuring of
the political economy as per the imperatives of the global marketplace and
therefore as implicated by the particular interests of the ruling classes.40 As
Ismet Akca notes, we can then trace the AKP’s authoritarianism back to the
neoliberal hegemonic project that was established in the post-1980 era. The
Turkish state’s response to various political economic crises in the 1970s,
Akca observes, culminated in the constitution of the “New Right policies”
a decade later. These policies, which were predicated on the “centralization
of economic decision-making, [and the] adoption of conservative-religious
ideology to manufacture national harmony between classes, the use of law
and order rhetoric, and the preservation of the judicial-political framework
established by the military regime,” constitute the historical background of
my analysis in this book.41

The Scope of the Study

I use Turkish media, primarily television, print, and the Internet, with their
contradictions, complexities, and heterogeneity, as a lens to analyze the
implications of the processes of capitalist globalization, democratization
efforts, and Islamic revivalism. My key point is that Turkey’s media system
developed as one that is statist and commercialized, is shaped by authoritar-

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ian neoliberal impulses, and as such must be understood as the byproduct of
dialectic tensions between the paternalistic inclinations of the Turkish state
and a constellation of externally derived developments (for example, the
strengthening of the free market logic, foreign capital inflows, EU-imposed
Media organizations in Turkey, similar to their Southeast Asian counter-
parts that Duncan McCargo analyzes, cannot be understood simply as busi-
ness enterprises (as Western-based models would have us assume), because
they are largely operated for instrumental purposes.42 Neither can they be
analyzed without considering the broader public sphere in which pluralistic
expressions are subject to state suppression and oppositional views are mar-
ginalized by the political establishment. As I illustrate in this book, Turkey’s
media system is marked by the combination of state power with the power
of capital, and authoritarian state control with neoliberal elements.43 In this
sense, it bears similarities with other non-Western media systems, such as
those in Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.44 Obviously, Turkey is
different from countries in these regions (such as Mexico, Hungary, Rus-
sia, and Singapore) in terms of its political economic history, systems, and
structures, but it nonetheless shares certain similarities: the articulation of
market principles with state domination of their media systems, the weak rule
of law, constraints on civil liberties, one-party predominance, plebiscitary
tendencies, or strong presidential rule in their political systems.45 Based on
the exploration of these issues, I shed light on the configuration of the Turkish
media system as the upshot of a certain political economic order, one that
is state centric and neoliberal, which obviously is not unique to Turkey but
can be observed in other contexts as well.46
In addition to the global phenomenon of state-market interpenetration,
I also examine the contingent relationships between the state and politi-
cal Islam, for they are among the primary markers of Turkish (and Middle
Eastern) political history and culture. While I acknowledge that Turkey is
different from countries such as Egypt and Pakistan in terms of its seculariza-
tion and Westernization projects, I nonetheless discuss the connections and
divergences between these contexts with reference to the role of the military
and Islamic actors in shaping (and being shaped by) media and communica-
tion systems, technologies, and practices.

Theoretical Framework and Methods

To analyze the complex networks of the aforementioned relationships, my
first point of departure is critical political economy with its focus on “social

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relations, particularly the power relations that mutually constitute the pro-
duction, distribution and consumption of resources.”47 As Peter Golding and
Graham Murdock note, critical political economy is concerned with the con-
sequences of economic organization on representations and discourses in the
public sphere, the autonomy of media producers against the backdrop of the
broad patterns of power and ownership, the “production of meaning as the
exercise of power,” and the promotion and marginalization of certain cultural
forms over others.48 Vincent Mosco places special emphasis on “the study of
social relations, particularly the power relations that mutually constitute the
production, distribution, and consumption of [communication] resources.”49
Along these lines, my research questions are designed to understand Turkey’s
media system within more general developments in the country’s political
economy and in its sociocultural landscape. In the former category are the
configuration of an authoritarian neoliberal regime, the active promotion of
neoliberal policies by the state, and the rise of Islamic politics and bourgeoi-
sie.50 In the latter are the continuing sway of nationalism, and the weaving
of religious conservatism in culture and media.
My analysis of the nexus of the political, the economic, and the cultural
is placed both within the national context of Turkey and the broader phe-
nomenon of globalization. To this end, I turn to critical scholarship on
globalization as my second theoretical point of departure. It is now well
established in the literature that globalization does not correspond to the
decline or retreat of the state, nor does it necessarily advance liberal demo-
cratic values. As Turkey’s experiences with global capitalism in the post-
1980 era show (and as I explore in detail throughout the book), the role of
the state has not diminished but has rather been reconfigured whereby it
continues to play “market-forming and market-shaping roles.”51 Drawing on
the work of Ayse Bugra and Osman Savaskan, my aim is to go beyond the
reductionist conceptualizations of the state as an object of globalization and
instead explore the state as an “active promoter” of a liberalized and globally
integrated economy.
To gain insights into the interlocking spheres of state, market, and culture,
this book draws extensively on literature both in Turkish and English and
is based on the following: 1) document analyses of media legislation (print,
broadcasting, and Internet laws), the Constitution, the Penal Code and the
Anti-Terror Law, and reports on media regulation, technological infrastruc-
ture, and advertising spending; and 2) interviews with media practitioners
(journalists, reporters, editors, publishers, television executives), union rep-
resentatives, and free speech activists. These interviews do not constitute a
formal ethnographic research but were designed as open-ended conversa-

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tions to gain insights into the everyday encounters, alliances, and conflicts
between the state, media companies, and practitioners.52

The Outline
The first half of the book focuses on the 1980s and 1990s, a turbulent period
whereby the Kemalist ideology was faced with several challenges, including
the state’s attempt to maintain its hegemony over society, politics, and culture
as Turkey opened up to world markets and foreign culture, and capital began
to flow into the country. Chapter 1, entitled “Politics and Culture in Turkey,”
sets the scene with an examination of Turkey’s political history, specifically
the country’s main pillars of statism, nationalism, and secularism, which
emerged in unique forms in the 1920s. It also gives an overview of the role
of the state in the economy and the development of politically supported
private capital. This chapter illustrates how a statist, nationalist, and secu-
larist ethos has suffused the Turkish public sphere and media culture, and
provides the background for the analysis of Turkey’s contemporary media
system in later chapters.
Chapter 2, entitled “The Political Economic Transformation of Media,”
places its focus on the nexus of the economic and the political and explores
the post-1980 transformation of the media system under converging develop-
ments such as the military coup, the neoliberal restructuring of the economy,
the flow of transnational capital and culture into the country, the increasing
investment in telecommunications, and the commercialization of broadcast-
ing. In doing so, this chapter also maps the connections between Turkish and
other national contexts with regard to marketization and democratization.
Chapter 3, entitled “Containing Kurdish Nationalism and Political Islam in
the 1990s,” analyzes the alliance between the media and the military-led state
with respect to the twin threats of Kurdish nationalism and political Islam.
This chapter focuses on the state suppression of Kurdish and Islamist actors
in the 1990s and the role of mainstream media in sustaining the nationalist,
secularist ethos. In analyzing the media-military alliance, this chapter also
points to connections between Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan with respect to
the hegemony of military prerogatives in politics and media.
The second half of the book focuses on 2000–2015, again a period of ma-
jor transformation whereby political Islam (through the electoral success of
the AKP) firmly established itself in the public sphere and military tutelage
waned. These chapters survey the changes and continuities in Turkey’s politi-
cal economic structures and media landscape under the thirteen-year-old
AKP regime.

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Chapter 4, entitled “The AKP Era: Between the Market and the State,”
begins with an examination of the AKP’s rise to power in 2002 and its re-
form agenda, influenced by pressure from the World Bank, IMF, and EU.
Through the lens of what David Harvey calls the dialectic tension between
the “logic of the market” and the “logic of territory,”53 this chapter focuses
on the forceful reemergence of anti-Western and antiglobalization currents
as seen in the suppression of Kurdish media; the prosecution of writers and
intellectuals because of their so-called antinationalism; the generation of
books, films, and advertisements that glorified Turks’ (continuing) struggle
against imperialist forces; and Parliamentary debates regarding the opening
of the broadcasting market to foreign ownership.
Chapter 5, entitled “The Remaking of the Media-Military-State Relation-
ships in the Early Twenty-First Century,” focuses on the transformation of
the media field as a result of the shifts in media ownership, the cultivation
of AKP-friendly media conglomerates, the consequent upsurge in partisan-
ship, and the decline in press freedoms. This chapter traces the connections
between these developments and the broader political economic forces such
as the economic crisis of 2001, the AKP’s electoral hegemony, the decline
of military tutelage, the entrenchment of Muslim bourgeoisie, and the new
Islamist cadres in governmental and administrative structures.
Chapter 6, entitled “Gezi Park Protests, the Corruption Investigation, and
the Control of the Online Public Sphere,” discusses the possibilities and limits
of online communications. It explores the dynamics underpinning the rise
of social media as an alternative source of news and information during the
Gezi protests and the corruption scandal, as well as the AKP’s subsequent
efforts to place (further) restrictions on social media. From this, it points
to the state’s constitutive and mutating (but not declining) role in an era of
global online communications.
The concluding chapter draws together arguments presented in the previ-
ous chapters to offer a critical evaluation of the relationship between media
and democracy under the AKP rule. As noted earlier, the Turkish model
(the perception of Turkey as a democratic Muslim country that successfully
synthesizes free market principles with religious conservative values) came to
be seriously dented in 2013 and beyond. The concluding chapter explores the
rise and the fall of the Turkish model and highlights the democratic short-
comings of the AKP that remained hidden during the period in-between. By
discussing the AKP’s politicization of state institutions, curbing of individual
liberties, continuation of the national security paradigm, and perpetuation
of an antidemocratic media system, this chapter points to the continuation
of Turkey’s long-standing authoritarian neoliberal trajectories.

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1. Politics and Culture in Turkey

To understand Turkey’s media system and its post-1980 transforma-

tion, one first needs to step back and examine it within the broader context
of Turkey’s political economic history and culture, and more specifically
within the main pillars of statism, nationalism, and secularism. These pil-
lars emerged in unique forms in the aftermath of the establishment of the
Republic in 1923 and became subject to divergent processes of transforma-
tion during the 1980s and 1990s and then again in the first decade of the
twenty-first century.1 Though this chapter will not provide a full historical
analysis, it does intend to illustrate how statism, nationalism, and secularism
have suffused both the Turkish public sphere and its media culture. It also
provides background for the ensuing examination of Turkey’s contemporary
media system, especially in regard to the development of political economic
alliances between media proprietors and the state.

State Prerogatives and Military Guardianship

The Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal following
the post–World War I decay of the Ottoman Empire. Along with an elite
composed of military officers and civilian bureaucrats, Kemal—later named
Ataturk, the “father of all Turks”—set out to build both a nation-state and
a modern, secular republic with the kind of legal, social, cultural, and eco-
nomic structures and institutions more commonly found in the West.2 From
the 1920s onward, the founding elite demonstrated a special concern for the
vulnerability of the new nation-state and assigned to the discourse of state
survival, national unity, and territorial integrity a central position in the

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political field that still dominates the public sphere.3 The military, primarily
due to its role in the nationalist struggle against the European occupiers,
came to assume the guardianship of the new republic and appointed itself
as the defender of the state from enemies internal and external.
The concern with state survival can, in fact, be traced to late nineteenth-
and early twentieth-century experiences of the Ottoman Empire, namely its
military defeat in several wars and eventual loss of sovereignty and the oc-
cupation of its Anatolian homeland in the aftermath of the WWI. Although
Kemalist ideology aimed to cut any links to the Ottoman past, it nonetheless
embraced the same fears that had defined the final days of the empire: the
fear of partition, the fear of the disintegration of the country’s territorial
integrity, and the fear of internal and external enemies aiming to divide the
country. Collectively, these fears are referred to as the “Sevres Syndrome,”
originally named after the Sevres Treaty that had divided the territories of
the Ottoman Empire among the European powers after WWI.
The Sevres Syndrome still stands as a useful catchall description of such
fears and their instrumental role in shaping Turkish political discourse. For
example, in the 1990s, Kurdish unrest was tied to Western powers allegedly
aiming to dissolve Turkey’s national unity and territorial integrity. Similarly,
the rise of political Islam, also in the 1990s, was associated with Iran and its
so-called plans to “pull Turkey into endless darkness.”4 In 2006–2007, liberal
writers and intellectuals were accused of being internal enemies because they
allegedly threatened Turkey’s national unity by openly debating the Armenian
genocide.5 This pattern of confounding domestic issues with international
conspiracies transpired in 2013 when, during the Gezi Park protests, the AKP
government insisted that an international cabal was actually behind the dem-
onstrations. Likewise, that same year the corruption charges brought against
the government were labeled as the work of a “Jewish lobby” aiming to erode
Turkey’s development. In 2015, even Pope Francis came to be included in this
so-called international conspiracy because of his use of the word “genocide”
to describe the massacres of Armenians a hundred years ago.

Nation Building and the Suppression

of Ethnic Identities
In addition to the primacy of the state, the other organizing principle of the
new republic was nationalism. The nation-building project was based on
ethnic, religious, and linguistic homogeneity and thus required the sever-
ing of links to the multireligious and multiethnic heritage of the Ottoman
Empire and the rejecting of the historical, cultural, and religious experiences

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of the peoples of Anatolia.6 Premised on the principle of a republic, “one and
indivisible,” the state ideology came to suppress self-identifying affirmations
of the so-called deviant groups––for example, conservative Muslims and
the Kurdish, Jewish, Greek, and Armenian minorities.7 Along these lines,
the new republic designated Kurds as Turks and professed to be trying to
assimilate them into the larger Turkish culture. It simultaneously identified
them as “premodern,” and culturally and economically backward, and denied
any scrap of ethnic identity they might otherwise want to claim.8 The new
republic categorized some non-Muslims as minorities, indulgently permitted
them to remain in Turkey, and made them theoretically eligible to claim basic
citizenship rights.9 Yet it took other radical steps to create and maintain a
Turkish nation-state, such as the expulsion of Greeks from Turkey and their
replacement by Balkan Muslims between 1923 and 1930 and the enforcement
of the 1934 Settlement Law, which had supposedly been aimed at settling the
nomadic tribes but was actually a clear attempt to assimilate Kurds through
demographic recomposition.10 The mid-twentieth century saw the imposition
of a special “wealth tax” on the properties of non-Muslims in 1942; and the
cracking down of several Kurdish revolts that exploded between the 1920s
and 1940s, especially the one in 1937, which led to the death and displace-
ment of thousands of Kurds.11

Secularism, Westernization,
and the Subordination of Religion
To the new republic, challenges came not only from the multiethnic legacy
of the Ottoman Empire but also from the role of Islam in the public sphere.12
The Kemalist founders imposed a top-down secularization and Westerniza-
tion project with the specific aim of “transform[ing] the religious and mys-
tical traditions of the rural and uneducated masses,” and of “engineer[ing]
the popular consciousness so as to distance it from religion.” 13 The series
of reforms between the 1920s and 1930s included the adoption of Western
legal, social, and cultural institutions and practices—which, in effect, meant
the banning of Islamic garb and the adoption of Western codes of dress; the
banning of Ottoman-Arabic script and the adoption of the Latin alphabet;
and the abandoning of the provisions of Islamic law and the writing of a
new legal code.14
Perhaps the most important of the modernizing reforms was the sub-
ordination of religion in the public sphere and the institutionalization of
secularism. Acts demonstrating this subordination included the closing of
all religious schools; the outlawing of mystic orders, Islamic brotherhoods,

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and charities; and the replacing of the Arabic call to prayer with one us-
ing the Turkish language. This interconnected threading of a “distaste for
religion” and a “mission of elevating people to the level of contemporary
civilization,” as evinced in the rhetoric of the republican elites, led to the
emergence of a particular mode of secularism (laicism) in Turkey: one that
did not maintain a neutral relationship between state and religion, but rather
endeavored to subordinate religion and to relegate all religious practice to
the private sphere alone.15
Despite all efforts to institutionalize secularism, however, the Kemalist
project was not able to eradicate Islam from public life. Islamic education
and social networks continued to exist underground and were thus all but
geared up to return in the 1980s with the revived Islamist activism.16
A crucial point to note here is that even though the Turkish state repudi-
ated Islam as the chief marker of its national identity, it nonetheless adopted
a double discourse regarding religion. As Umit Cizre cogently explains, the
dilemma for the republican founders was to “make individuals imagine them-
selves as part of a nation, and identify themselves with the imagined com-
munity of Turkey” in the absence of “older cultural meanings, the strongest
one of which was being a Muslim.” To overcome the likely resistance to this
pretense, the republican cadres “disestablished Islam as the state religion” but
“incorporated religious aspects of prior cultural markers into the modern
Turkish identity.” Obviously the recognition of Islam was not displayed out
of any respect for older cultural traditions but was only used as a strategy to
depict religion as the “inferior other” to the new Western identity. Therefore,
the incorporation of Islam into the national identity served to legitimate the
new republican citizen.17
Given this double discourse adopted by the state, it would be simplistic
to understand the relationship between the state and Islam in the form of a
simple binary where the “failure of the former’s politics leads to the rise of the
latter’s force”; instead, they ought to be portrayed as forces in a “contingent
relationship.”18 An intriguing manifestation of this relationship can be seen
in the state’s strategic incorporation of Islam into the public sphere when it
suited its political needs. For example, as Jenny White reminds us, the Kemal-
ist cadres, in the early days of the new republic, used Sunni Islam to forge
an identity among the ethnically divided masses and premised the concept
of nation on “a racial understanding of Turkishness and Muslim identity.”19
This notion of “Muslim nationalism,” with its special emphasis on Islam as
the primary marker of Turkishness, gained traction in the late 1970s under
the National Salvation Party and was later embraced by the military in the
1980s as an antidote to leftist radicalism and to Kurdish nationalism.

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To go back to the rapid, top-down secularization and Westernization proj-
ect of the early years of the Turkish Republic, one should also note the gap
that it created between the elites and the people. While the Kemalist elites
tried to make a modern Turkey in their own image, they failed to show any
regard for centuries-old traditions, values, and norms of the past. Nor did
these elites appreciate the role Islam played for Turks in originally building
their identity.20 To the modernizing elite, ever inward-looking and isolated
from greater society, the masses were simply backward. Given that their tradi-
tions and values also happened to be contrary to the state’s new ideology, these
masses were seen as needing some sort of transformation.21 However, since
this transformation did not take place through “an organizational revolution
and/or by providing real services to the lower classes, and/or by an ideology
focusing on the peripheral masses,” it ended up alienating the periphery and
made them mere passive recipients of the messages of the state elites.22

Nation Building and Instrumental Use of Media

As discussed above, the fear of partition and the idea of self-defense came to
be the defining elements of the Turkish experience, from politics to culture.
In the media field, the state premised its policy on the paradigm of national
security, and to this end it established monopoly over broadcasting and im-
posed strict press laws over privately held newspapers. From the early years
of the republic, the founding elite mobilized the press and radio as tools in
the construction of the modernized, Westernized, secular national identity,
with radio broadcasting being especially apt in representing the “voice of a
nation.”23 As Meltem Ahiska shows, radio broadcasting was used to educate
the citizens about virtues of Western civilization and to promulgate a “pure”
national identity that excluded diverse languages and cultures of Armenian,
Greek, and Kurdish minorities.24 Later, in the 1960s, television broadcasting
was shaped along similar political registers and used as a means to circulate
state ideology.
The heavy reliance on symbolic and communicative practices on the
part of state elites to create and preserve a national identity and to uplift
and modernize the masses is not unique to Turkey; it can also be observed
in several Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian states, especially in their
post-independence years. For example, in Pakistan, the military and civil
bureaucracy worked together to circulate the idea of a nation-state via print
and broadcast outlets, whereas in Egypt, the government used radio and
television to educate, modernize, and culturally uplift Egyptians, especially
peasants and women.25 In Algeria, after the end of the French rule, the state

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used radio and television to “Arabize” culture and communication and to
“orient national identity and cultural independence away from the West,
especially France.”26

State Control of the Economy

From its early years onward, the Kemalist regime maintained full control of
not only the administrative and bureaucratic structures but also the econ-
omy.27 It opted to rest its economic policy on national development and
import substitution and thus gained the ability to play an active role in the
market by way of regulating imports and redistributing material gains.28 The
national-developmentalist model was prompted in part by worldwide eco-
nomic depression but also by the elite founders’ aspiration to render the state
economically self-sufficient and less dependent on the outside world. This
principle was clearly associated with long-held anxieties about state survival,
external threats, and an overall paradigm that prioritized national security.29
As Metin Heper and Fuat Keyman note, the state came to be “actively involved
in the establishment of exchange controls, major public investments in manu-
facturing, the nationalization of foreign and local companies delivering public
services, and the imposition of import duties and quotas to protect industry.”
In the meantime, the accumulation of private capital through state contracts
created “vertical links between the state and society,” expanded the bureau-
cratic and administrative classes, and developed new political patronage
relationships between the said classes and the entrepreneurs.30 Given these
clientelistic networks, the emerging bourgeois class found itself with limited
political engagement and remained unable to translate its economic gains
into political and civil rights.31 These patron-client relationships between the
state and private capital, as I explain in chapters 2, 4, and 5, were also among
the reasons behind the inability of commercial media to challenge or criticize
the military in the 1980s and 1990s, and the AKP since 2007.

Challenges to Kemalist Ideology

Despite its absolutism, the Kemalist state was never immune from chal-
lenges. In its early years under the single-party rule of the CHP (Cumhuriyet
Halk Partisi, or Republican People’s Party), the state faced almost two dozen
rebellions, most of which involved Kurds. Among these, the 1925 rebellion,
led by Sheikh Said, combined both ethnic and religious elements and was
launched against both the secular and the exclusively Turkish character of
the new state.32 It was led by tribal chiefs and religious leaders who feared

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the centralized and Westernized nation-state would remove their traditional
privileges.33 The Menemen rebellion of 1930 exposed the frustration of the
Islamists with the secular order when the members of a religious group ral-
lied against the state, called for the restoration of the caliphate, and eventu-
ally beheaded an army officer, who, in their eyes, represented the aggressive
secularization policy of Kemalist cadres.
Challenges continued even after the Kemalist single-party rule ended
and the country transitioned to a multiparty system. In 1950, the center-
right conservative Demokrat Parti (Democrat Party, or DP) came to power
and began to challenge the Kemalist regime (for example, by taking steps
to liberalize religious practice, giving greater freedom to private enterprise
by transferring some of the authority that had originally been entrusted to
the state bureaucracy).34 A decade later, however, it was eliminated by the
military. Despite the toppling of the DP government and the hanging of its
leaders, conservative politicians kept coming forward, even as they routinely
faced being quashed by the Kemalist establishment in an elaborate cat-and-
mouse game. For example, the Islamic Milli Nizam Partisi (the National
Order Party, founded in 1970) was shut down by the Constitutional Court
in the space of a year. Likewise, the coalition-aspiring Milli Selamet Partisi
(the National Salvation Party, founded in 1972) found itself shut down after
the military coup of 1980. Despite all the efforts of the state and the military
though, Islamist political activism was able to survive, and indeed strength-
ened overall (see chapters 3 and 4).

The Post-1980 Era

As noted above, the main tenets of Turkish modernity have been challenged
several times since the early years of the Turkish Republic, only to be subse-
quently suppressed by the state. However, beginning in the 1980s, Turkish
modernity entered a period of transformation whereby the nationalist and
secularist ethos, the primacy of the state, the role of the military in politics,
and the limits imposed on the public sphere came to be contested.35 People
from different sections of society started to question Kemalist ideology, and
its strong state tradition, prioritization of the national interest over individual
rights and freedoms.36 This transformation was triggered by a series of de-
velopments including the neoliberal restructuring of the economy, the 1980
military coup, the end of the Cold War, and Turkey’s increasing engagement
with globalization. In what follows, I highlight the first two developments,
both of which transpired in the year 1980. The first was the “January 24
decisions,” a term used to refer to the economic stabilization package that

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called for the replacement of a national-developmentalist economic model
with a market-oriented one. The second development was the September
12 military coup carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces with the aim of
ending the political turmoil and economic instability of the preceding de-
cade. Together, these two developments led to the creation of a new system
premised on a mixture of economic liberalism and state control—a system
in which the state would recalibrate its role in light of global and neoliberal
currents (e.g., entry of multinational corporations into the Turkish market,
inflow of foreign capital and culture, expansion of Turkish businesses into
global markets, EU membership application).

Economic Restructuring
The historic economic reforms of January 24, 1980, were introduced in re-
sponse to the crumbling of the development-based, protectionist economic
model in the late 1970s.37 Like many other developing countries, Turkey had
been suffering from massive debt accumulation that was worsened by the
worldwide economic recession, the reorganization of the global economy
around a global manufacturing system, and rising oil prices. To overcome the
economic crisis, Turkey felt it had no choice but to enter into “negotiations
with creditors and a long series of rescheduling agreements” with the IMF
and the World Bank.38 This stabilization program prioritized free trade and
exports, mandated the privatization of state-owned enterprises, and imposed
restrictions on collective bargaining and unionization––thus signaling a swift
transition to a market-based economic model.39 In return, Turkey would be
able to reschedule its debts with the IMF and receive loans from the World
Bank.40 Despite these dramatic measures, however, the country’s woes still
eluded any sort of quick resolution, given the resistance from trade union
federations and ensuing factory occupations, strikes, and violent clashes with
the army and the police.

Military Coup
The combination of an economic crisis amid ongoing political turmoil, street
violence between left and right, and the politicization of law enforcement all
helped to create a crisis of legitimacy and paved the way for the military coup
of September 12, 1980.41 To set the country on “the right path,” the generals,
who had always been quick to assume the role of guardian of the state, took
over the government entirely. They had not only been alarmed by the inter-
nal havoc but were also concerned by various external developments, such
as Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the rise of the Soviet-backed govern-

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ment in Afghanistan, both of which the generals believed had contributed
to unrest in Turkey.42
On the morning of September 12, 1980, the citizens of Turkey woke up to a
communiqué broadcast on the radio by the Turkish military junta. The newly
formed National Security Council, composed of the army’s five highest-
ranking generals, made the following declaration: “The state has become
dysfunctional and the constitutional organs have fallen into dissension and
silence. The sterile and uncompromising positions of political parties means
that they have not been able to create the necessary unity. Destructive and
separatist forces have put the life and property of citizens in danger promot-
ing reactionary and other perverted ideologies that have brought us to the
brink of division and civil war.”43
Although the 1980 coup was not the first military intervention in the his-
tory of the Turkish Republic, it was nonetheless the most radical because of
the structural changes it introduced, both political and economic. Among
the political changes were the strengthening of the bureaucratic capacity of
the state, the concentration of political power in the executive branch, the
increase in the powers of the president and the National Security Council,
the limitation of individual rights and freedoms, and the placement of severe
restrictions on the freedom of speech. During the period of the military
regime’s reign (1980–1983), trade unions and associations were suspended;
political leaders, activists, university professors, and journalists were ar-
rested; and local military commanders were put in charge of education, the
press, and trade unions.44 In order to bolster Turkish ethnic nationalism, any
expression of pro-Kurdish opinion now became prosecutable, and even the
use of Kurdish language in private was banned.45 Yet while the military junta
was determined to suppress Kurdish ethnic identity by any means possible as
part of the long-established state tradition, it also backed the reentry of Islam
into the public sphere. Perhaps more ironically, despite its long-standing
fear of Islam, the military now sanctioned religious education and social
networks as means to counter the threat of communism––an example of
the aforementioned double discourse adopted by the state toward Islam.46
Meanwhile, in the economic sphere, the military leadership upheld plans
to restructure the economy and vigorously executed the January 24 decisions.
To this end, the leadership shut down trade unions and banned political
parties in order to eliminate scrutiny of or opposition to economic reforms,
entered into “policy dialogue” with the IMF and the World Bank, and signed
major agreements to reschedule the country’s debts.47 As a matter of fact, in
a televised speech on the day of the coup, the military general Kenan Evren
announced that one of their objectives was to “successfully implement an
outward-looking development strategy.” As Ayse Bugra points out, Evren’s

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statement was indeed an acknowledgment of the junta’s “pro-market orienta-
tion” and determination to “follow the IMF-sponsored stability program.”48

Pro-Market Transformation
The political economic changes that had been initiated, shaped, and under-
taken by the military leadership continued after the transition to civilian
government in 1983. The winner of the election was the right-of-center Ana-
vatan Partisi (ANAP—Motherland Party), headed by Turgut Ozal, the former
minister of the economy under the military regime.49 A quasi-counterpart
to Reagan and Thatcher, and also a pragmatist and unabashed liberal, Ozal
emphasized “economic liberalism, entrepreneurial spirit and individual
achievement” and committed the country to free market ideology.50 Ozal
was keen to open Turkey’s markets without feeling compelled to consult the
Parliament or go through cumbersome bureaucratic-legal procedures. He
introduced organizational changes in the government structure and sur-
rounded himself with high-level technocrats and economic advisers—known
as “Ozal’s princes”—who answered directly to him.51 His office increased its
power in economic decision making not only through specialized agencies
but also by way of creating “extra-budgetary funds.” Thanks to these funds,
the prime minister could now distribute the state largesse as he wished and
create “wealth for particular individuals” and conversely “business difficulties
for out-of-favor individuals.”52
As per the program of the economic reform package sanctioned by the IMF
and the World Bank, the ANAP government scrapped protectionist measures,
reduced tariffs, liberalized capital flows, and introduced export incentives
that helped large enterprises enter global markets. This created a new class of
provincial businessmen in the conservative heartland of Anatolia. Together
with Istanbul-based capital, these provincial entrepreneurs, referred to as
“Anatolian tigers,” expanded the Turkish economy and became active players
in Middle Eastern, Russian, and Eastern European markets by the 1990s.53
Despite all its seemingly positive import, however, economic restructuring
had significant ramifications on Turkish society. While the incorporation of
Turkish entrepreneurs into global networks created wealth for the capital-
ist class (old and new), it also led to a sharp reduction in real wages and in
agricultural incomes, eliminating social welfare programs. Consequently,
unemployment rates started to rise, the number of the poor began to increase,
and large income gaps started to materialize. With the advent of consumer
society and the prominence of capital over labor, a new set of “rising values”
began to emerge, with emphases on capitalist growth, high profits, immediate

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gains, and individual competitiveness.54 As I discuss in chapter 2, it was this
new mindset, together with the structural changes in the political economy,
that irrevocably altered the media landscape.

Challenges to Kemalist Ideology, Redux

The post-1980 era witnessed the contestation of state ideology on various
fronts. Primarily Islamists and Kurds but also other political and cultural ac-
tors, such as feminists, LGBT individuals, and human rights activists, began
to enter the public sphere and question the Kemalist principles.55 Among
the factors playing a role in the erosion of limits imposed on the public
sphere were democratization efforts—limited though they were. During
Ozal’s premiership, for example, Turkey began to shift to a more decentralized
governance structure, with some newly empowered local administrations.
It also recognized the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights,
which meant the decisions of Turkish courts would be subject to international
examination. The use of the Kurdish language in the private sphere was now
allowed via constitutional amendments; the notorious Articles 141, 142, and
163 of the Penal Code, which had been used to prevent class- or religion-based
politics, were removed; and the ban on the Trade Union Confederation (the
DISK) was lifted. Perhaps most significantly, the full membership applica-
tion to the EU became the catalyst for successive governments to undertake
democratization reforms.56
The emerging critical atmosphere and the increasing visibility of the
“others” were also facilitated by the dismantling of the state hegemony over
media and communications, as well as by the commercialization and diver-
sification of broadcast media in the 1990s (topics that I discuss in detail in
chapter 2). However, it is also important to keep in mind that any positive
impact of these liberalization efforts would soon be diluted by the adoption
of the Anti-Terror Law and its ability to curb political expression.57

Rising Tide of Political Islam

The rise of Islamist politics in the post-1980 era was enabled by the conver-
gence of several factors: the military’s strategic use of Islam as a counterforce
to communism, Ozal’s liberal perspective and personal affinity for religion,
the rise of an Islamic bourgeoisie, and the new social base consisting of the
urban and rural poor and pious middle classes.58 As noted above, the mili-
tary regime in the aftermath of the 1980 coup had placed special emphasis
on religious values. This emphasis had not been prompted by any genuine

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interest on the part of the regime in a restored Islamic identity, but rather by
the political calculations of the regime’s thinking that Islam could be used
as an antidote to communism. Going against their ingrained assumptions
about Islam being a threat to the secular order, the military elite now decided
to recognize religion as “a substitute for class-based ideologies” and as a
means to “create a socially disciplined and politically stable society ready to
undergo the structural dislocations caused by the transition to capitalism
and the global patterns of life-styles.”59
Sanctioned by the military, the notion of Muslim nationalism propelled
the opening of new preacher schools and the introduction of religion and
ethics courses in regular schools. At the same time, Anatolian conservative
entrepreneurs began to use their economic credentials to bring Islam back
into the public sphere, as demonstrated in their expansion of Islamic social
networks, religious associations, charities, schools, and media outlets. In the
media field, the number of Islamic publications increased significantly from
a 7 percent market share before 1980 to a 47 percent share by 1996. Now there
were “110 weekly and monthly Islamist journals in circulation, 16 national
and 15 regional [television] stations, as well as 300 local ones. Radio [was]
even more extravagant: 35 national stations, 109 regional and almost 1,000
local ones.”60
Notwithstanding the rise of Islamist media, the post-1980 era also wit-
nessed the increasing prominence of Islamist social networks, especially that
of the Gulen community (alternatively referred to as the Gulen movement,
the Community or the Service). Led by the Sunni Muslim cleric Fethullah
Gulen, this community had roots that could be traced back to the 1970s.61
According to Hakan Yavuz, in the 1980s Gulen’s adherents began to use the
“religion-friendly political environment” and the new economic opportunity
spaces to create a “golden generation” with “heightened patriotic and moral
consciousness.”62 It was during this decade that they built a massive network
of dormitories, schools, media outlets, charities, and cultural foundations
and established close links with Anatolian businessmen. As Joshua Hendrick
notes, in the 1990s, the Gulen community “expanded its [education] activi-
ties to the Balkans and the newly independent Central Asian republics.” A
decade later, this network covered “more than 100 countries in Asia, Africa,
and North America.”63
The Gulen community, as Hendrick points out, has often been mischar-
acterized as either a “radical Islamist group that is poised to overthrow the
secular Republic” or a “Sufi-inspired benevolent organization that promotes
interfaith, intercultural dialogue.” Instead, Hendrick offers a more nuanced
analysis that describes the Gulen community as a Turkey-based transnational
network, a Muslim religious community that synthesizes Islam, Turkish na-

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tionalism, social conservatism, and economic power.64 Another important
point to note is that neither Gulen himself nor his loyalists have entered
into active politics but instead established alliances with Islamist or center-
right parties, depending on the conjuncture of the day. Despite its absence
in formal politics, the Gulen community is nonetheless believed to exercise
substantial influence over state affairs by having their supporters working in
state organs as police officers and chiefs and as judges and prosecutors. (See
chapters 4 and 6 for a detailed discussion).

Reemergence of Kurdish Ethnic Nationalism

Simultaneous with the rise of Islamic actors, the post-1980 era also witnessed
challenges by the Kurds, whose reentry into the public sphere was a conse-
quence of the aforementioned growing strength of identity politics and hu-
man rights discourses in general; of Ozal’s liberal outlook toward recognizing
different ethnicities living in Turkey; and of regional developments such
as the Gulf War of 1991, which led to an urgent Kurdish refugee crisis.65 As
noted earlier, since the 1920s, the Kurds had been subjugated and seen as a
cardinal threat to national unity and the territorial integrity of the republic.
Consequently, their demands for ethnic rights were either violently sup-
pressed or contained by assimilation. However, during the turbulent 1970s,
Kurdish identity politics became especially radicalized by the founding of
Abdullah Ocalan’s PKK (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane—Kurdistan Workers’
Party). A Marxist-Leninist organization, the PKK immediately called for an
armed struggle against the Turkish state and the establishment of a socialist
Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.66 Though stalled by the military coup,
the PKK nonetheless was able to reorganize itself and launch attacks on the
Turkish army in 1984. The guerilla warfare between the two sides escalated
in the 1990s and led to the deaths of thousands of PKK fighters, Turkish
soldiers, and civilians.67
Throughout the 1990s, the Turkish military, together with elected civil-
ians, adopted a hard-liner approach to the Kurdish question. In the minds
of these Kemalist elites, the “Kurdish issue” did not exist: according to them,
Kurdish ethnic rights had never been denied by the state, nor had there ever
been any instances of discrimination against the Kurds. There had only been
problems of terrorism and underdevelopment in the region.68 They did not
see the PKK’s armed struggle as being tied to any demands for a recogni-
tion of ethnic and cultural identity, but as the product of “a conspiracy by
external forces to divide the Turkish nation-state.”69 It was primarily because
of this denial of Kurdish ethnic rights that some Turkish intellectuals and
European countries came to regard the armed conflict between the PKK

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and the Turkish army as a “liberation movement,” or at least as an identity-
based political movement.70 On the other hand, the dominant belief among
public opinion was (and to a certain extent still is) that the Kurdish political
community and the PKK were (are) set to dissolve the territorial integrity
and national unity of the country; such fears are the very ones that resonate
with the Sevres Syndrome.
In the 1990s, the state response focused on maintaining national unity and
the territorial integrity of the state and therefore included in its arsenal such
radical steps as the declaration of emergency rule in the region, the evacua-
tion of thousands of Kurds from their villages, the extra-judicial killings by
Contra-Guerilla units, and the torture and disappearance of thousands of
Kurds (including Kurdish journalists, politicians, intellectuals, and activists).
Notwithstanding the consequent human rights violations and thousands of
deaths caused by this “dirty war,” the state narrative intended to equate all
Kurdish and pro-Kurdish political expression with terrorism and thus crimi-
nalized them through the Anti-Terror Law of 1992. Pro-Kurdish publications
and journalists were subject to severe repression, such as the suspension,
confiscation, or termination of newspapers and the imprisonment or “disap-
pearance” of journalists (a topic I discuss in detail in chapter 3).

The Kemalist state ideology, which took radical steps to create a Western-
ized, secular nation-state by suppressing Kurdish ethnic identity and Islamic
expression, came under question in the post-1980 era as market forces and
integration with global capitalism converged with increasing demands for
political liberalism and the growth of more individualist, competitive ideolo-
gies in the cultural realm.71 The questioning of strict limits placed on cultural
and political expression and the entry into the public sphere of Islamic and
Kurdish political actors as well as feminist, LGBT, and human rights activists,
were also accelerated by the opening of new discursive spaces prompted by
increasing technological investment in telecommunications and emergence
of commercial broadcasting.72 Political actors and those elements of popular
culture that had been previously ignored, excluded, or even banned by the
state were now able to find new avenues of expression.73 But would the pro-
liferation of new commercial outlets create a pluralistic and diverse media
field? The following chapter explores these shifts, analyzes the emergence of
commercial broadcasting as well as the overall trends toward conglomera-
tion and consolidation in the media field, and discusses the tenuous links
between media commercialization and democratization in both Turkish
and global contexts.

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2. Political Economic Transformation
of Media in the 1990s

As discussed in the previous chapter, Turkey’s post-1980 transfor-

mation introduced significant changes in all areas of life, from politics to
economy and culture, and the media field was no exception. Media enter-
prises, unions, regulatory mechanisms, and the relationships among them
all came to be reconfigured by the emergent political economic dynamics.
As Daniel Hallin and Stylos Papathanasopoulos remind us, analyses of
media systems should center on not merely ownership and private capital but
also the links between the capital, the state, and other political institutions.1
Therefore, this chapter places its focus on the nexus of the economic and
the political and explores the post-1980 transformation of Turkey’s media
system under the convergence of the following developments: the military
coup, the neoliberal restructuring of the economy, the flow of transnational
capital and culture into the country, the increasing investment in telecom-
munications, and the commercialization of broadcasting. In doing so, this
chapter also maps the connections and contrasts between the Turkish and
other national contexts in regard to the alleged relationship between media
commercialization and democratization.2
Prior to the 1980s, Turkey’s media system was organized around a dual
structure of state-run broadcasting and privately held press. While broad-
casting operations and infrastructure remained under the firm control of
the state, commercially held print media, from the 1950s onward, began to
develop thanks to the transition to a multiparty system and relative economic
growth. These commercial print ventures, which were mostly run as family
businesses (that is, their owners were journalists themselves or came from
families who had been in publishing for several generations) sought to sus-

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tain themselves by advertisement revenue.3 However, given the absence of
a developed advertising market and the broader economic troubles of the
country, newspaper owners still had to rely on subsidies and government-
financed advertising. Their impartiality was thus tampered as they came to
be entrenched in patron-client relationships with political circles.4
The late 1970s and early 1980s were not any easier on these “press families”
as they were increasingly burdened with persistent economic crises, low
circulation numbers, and the migration of advertisers to the new medium of
television. They started to seek capital flows either by venturing out to non-
press sectors or by establishing partnerships with nonpress entities. The Ilicak
family, who owned Tercuman, a leading daily, launched nonpress enterprises,
while the Karacan family sold half of Milliyet’s shares to an up-and-coming
businessman, Aydin Dogan. Dogan would later take complete ownership of
the paper, only to become the biggest media mogul in Turkey by the 1990s.
This wave of change accelerated in the 1980s especially as result of the
liberalization of the newsprint market. The lifting of the quotas on newsprint
prices was followed by the introduction of computers and new printing tech-
nologies, which increased operational costs, while circulation and advertising
revenues continued to decline.5 In a field crowded by ten national dailies,
all vying for a total of four million circulation, newspaper owners inevitably
began to search for robust capital flows. As a retired journalist with more
than forty years of experience told me: “Newspaper owners who could not
afford the rising price of newsprint hoped to find a way out by attracting more
advertisement. Others began searching for new business partners. This was
the perfect opportunity for the new capitalists to acquire ailing newspapers
on the cheap.”6 The up-and-coming business tycoons, products of the eco-
nomic liberalization of the 1980s, were motivated by the prospect of using
newspapers to cultivate personal relationships with politicians in Ankara:
[The then prime minister] Ozal was the one who initiated this quid pro quo
system. He needed to gain public support for his neoliberal policies. He
didn’t want people to think that the economic reforms would only benefit
the entrepreneurs and at the expense of working and middle classes. He
wanted people to think of his policies as the only way of getting Turkey
out of the ditch [referring to the economic crisis of the late 1970s]. So he
established personal relationships with newspaper owners, editors and
journalists. He not only used his personal enigma, but also sticks and car-
rots. This was possible because he amassed a lot of power in his office. Soon
enough newspaper owners learned the rules of the game.7

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Implications of the Military Coup
At this point, it is important to deepen our understanding of the implications
of the military coup on the media field—both direct and indirect. Among
the direct effects were the indefinite closure of leftist newspapers and the
conviction of hundreds of journalists, publishers, editors, and intellectu-
als in the days and weeks following the coup in 1980. Press corps’ troubles
were further deepened in 1982 when the National Security Council (NSC),
led by top military generals, announced that it would “exercise control over
all publications and communications that take place verbally, in print, and
audio-visually; censor and confiscate newspapers, periodicals, books and
other publications, and close printing houses [when necessary]; and require
new publications to obtain prior permission.”8 Based on this mandate, major
newspapers were suspended on numerous occasions ranging from a week
to several months, and journalists and editors were ordered not to publish
anything critical of the military.9
Another direct implication of the coup was the weakening of the press
unions. In 1982, the NSC enacted a new statute that separated “intellectual
workers” (i.e., journalists, editors, reporters) from technical workers (i.e.,
printing press workers) and created two smaller unions with diminished
organizational and collective bargaining powers.10 To quote the words of the
former chairman of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), the outcome was
disastrous: “Before the 1980 coup, our union was really strong. We could col-
lectively bargain at more than 30 [publishing companies] across the country.
Anyone working in the press sector could become a member with us. We
had approximately 6,000 members. But after 1982, with the passing of the
new law, our membership declined by 75%.”11
Beyond the breakup of unions, arrests of journalists, and termination of
newspapers, the military coup had an even more ominous effect on Turkey’s
media system. The new Constitution, drafted by the military junta, imposed
severe restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press and left
an indelible mark on the public sphere.12 The Constitution recognized fun-
damental rights and liberties, yet qualified them with several restrictions.
For example, the articles on freedom of thought, opinion, and dissemination
state the following:
Article 25 on Freedom of Thought and Opinion: Everyone has the right
to freedom of thought and opinion. No one shall be compelled to reveal
his thoughts and opinions for any reason or purpose, nor shall anyone be
blamed or accused on account of his thoughts and opinions.

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Article 26 on Freedom of Expression and Dissemination of Thought: Ev-
eryone has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion
by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or
collectively. This right includes the freedom to receive and impart informa-
tion and ideas without interference from official authorities. This provision
shall not preclude subjecting transmission by radio, television, cinema, and
similar means to a system of licensing. [as amended in 2001]

Yet Article 26 limits these freedoms by the following clause:

The exercise of these freedoms may be restricted for the purposes of protect-
ing national security, public order and public safety, the basic characteristics
of the Republic and safeguarding the indivisible integrity of the State with
its territory and nation [added after the amendment in 2001], preventing
crime, punishing offenders, withholding information duly classified as a
state secret, protecting the reputation and rights and private and family
life of others, or protecting professional secrets as prescribed by law, or
ensuring the proper functioning of the judiciary.

Article 28 on Freedom of the Press declares:

the press is free, and shall not be censored. The establishment of a printing
house shall not be subject to prior permission or the deposit of a financial
guarantee. The state shall take the necessary measures to ensure freedom
of the press and freedom of information.

Then it stipulates the following restrictions:

Anyone who writes or prints any news or articles which threaten the inter-
nal or external security of the state or the indivisible integrity of the state
with its territory and nation, which tend to incite offence, riot or insur-
rection, or which refer to classified state secrets and anyone who prints or
transmits such news or articles to others for the above purposes, shall be
held responsible under the law relevant to these offences. Distribution may
be suspended as a preventive measure by the decision of a judge, or in the
event delay is deemed prejudicial, by the competent authority designated
by law.
Periodical and non-periodical publications may be seized by a decision
of a judge in cases of ongoing investigation or prosecution of offences pre-
scribed by law, and, in situations where delay could endanger the indivisible
integrity of the state with its territory and nation, national security, public
order or public morals and for the prevention of offence by order of the
competent authority designated by law.

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Periodicals published in Turkey may be temporarily suspended by court
sentence if found to contain material which contravenes the indivisible in-
tegrity of the state with its territory and nation, the fundamental principles
of the Republic, national security and public morals.13

The military regime also amended the existing Press Law in alignment
with the Constitution. For example, whereas the Constitution declared the
language of the state to be Turkish and prohibited the use of any other lan-
guage (read: Kurdish) in the expression and dissemination of thought, the new
Press Law criminalized publications in languages prohibited by law. While
the Constitution emphasized the “indivisible integrity of the state,” the Press
Law expanded the powers of the Council of Ministers to “prohibit the entry
and distribution of [foreign] publications if they [were] found to undermine
the indivisible integrity of the state with its territory and nation, the Republic,
public order, public safety, public interest, morals and public health.”

Conglomeration in Media Industries

Aside from this restrictive legal framework, another risk to the Turkish press
revealed itself in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the entry of nonmedia
entrepreneurs into the field, the integration of print ventures into conglom-
erates, and the establishment of clientelism as the dominant mode of opera-
tion.14 Although patron-client relationships between newspaper owners and
politicians have a long history in Turkey, the changing ownership structures
and the rise in conglomeration increased the vulnerability of the print media
to pressures from the government since conglomerates depended on gov-
ernment licenses, subsidies, and privatization deals to conduct business in
nonmedia sectors, and led to loss of editorial independence and decline in
journalistic professionalism, and increase in partisanship. Another detrimen-
tal outcome of conglomeration was the prioritization of the corporate logic.
In the words of a veteran journalist who had begun his career in the 1960s
and observed the transformation in the 1980s firsthand, “the [new] owners
had nothing to do with journalism, and ran the newspapers as an ordinary
business. To them, owning a newspaper was the same as owning a factory or a
bank.”15 The corporate logic manifested itself in the appointment of nonpress
professionals to run the newspapers, the disruption of the long-standing
tradition of appointing executives from the ranks of senior journalists, and
the moving of the leading newspapers’ offices from downtown Babiali (the
Fleet Street of Istanbul) to newly built high-rises on the outskirts of the
city.16 The implications were serious: “We moved to these modern buildings,

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which were so far away from the city. We were cut off from the streets. We
lost contact with the ordinary folk on the streets. We started to report from
our desks, not from the streets.”17
The decline of hard news coverage and the rise in tabloidization was an-
other negative development during the post-1980 era. Under the influence
of the neoliberal mind-set, as well as the restrictive rules set by the military
regime, newspapers began to devote more space to lifestyle, entertainment,
and celebrity and sports news. The coverage of politics and the economy
followed the neoliberal parameters and shifted attention away from unions
and working-class issues to the investor class, global finance, stock exchange
and company news.18 As the previously quoted journalist told me:
Before 1980, all newspapers had reporters whose beat were labor unions,
protests, strikes. Some even had special labor sections or pages. By the mid-
to late 1980s, the coverage of labor issues started to decrease significantly.
By the early 1990s, it was gone. Today the economy sections cover company
news or the stock exchange. They read like the PR bulletin of a company.19

Not only news coverage declined, but the lines between comment and news
also blurred as result of an ever increasing number of columnists, who did not
work the beats but penned responses to current affairs or wrote about their
own political opinions, food, wine, vacations, and relationships. By 1995, the
number of columnists reached 547 in twenty-six national papers, putting the
space occupied by commentary around 17 percent.20 The fact that, by 1995,
a total of 70 percent of newspapers and 87 percent of magazines was owned
by two capital groups, Dogan and Sabah, made opinion-based, personalized
and sensationalistic reporting the norm, not the exception. Tabloid content
in newspapers and on television became prevalent; lines between advertising
and news became blurred; op-ed columns constructed individualism and
conspicuous consumption as the “new or rising values” of the decade.21
Moreover, media partisanship became the dominant mode of operation
because of journalists’ personal connections with a range of power holders
(high-level bureaucrats, military officials, and politicians) similar to the case
of developing democracies in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and
Southern Europe in the mid- to late twentieth century.22 Like other similarly
placed national contexts with a history of military rule or interference and
patrimonial state institutions such as Pakistan, Egypt, Argentina, Columbia,
Spain, Portugal, and Greece, Turkey’s media system came to be marked with
the salience of media enterprises as political actors. As Kaya and Cakmur
note, Turkish media owners took advantage of the weak coalition govern-
ments and economic instability of the 1990s and acted as kingmakers and

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“acquired an autonomy which has not previously been readily granted to
them.” Emboldened by political and economic crises during this decade,
media moguls, primarily Aydin Dogan and Dinc Bilgin, “use[d] their media
properties as instruments to intervene in important political decisions that
had a central role in the accumulation of capital.”23
Conglomeration also accelerated the breakup of unions that began in
the early 1980s, as corporate bosses imposed minimum wages, pressured
employees to relinquish their union membership, and made “gentlemen’s
agreements” not to transfer employees from each other.24 In the words of a
journalist who used to work at a mainstream newspaper but who is now a
Owners became more powerful, and journalists more vulnerable. Several
journalists were laid off just because of their union activism. Once they
were fired, they were unable to find a job in another newspaper because
of the “gentlemen’s agreements.” The Human Resources department in ev-
ery major newspaper had a “black list.” Journalists who were prominent
union members or who advocated union membership found themselves
on that list.25

Last but not least, the rise of conglomerates also eliminated the relatively
pluralistic distribution structure of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, distribu-
tion was undertaken by Hur Dagitim (a consortium of Hurriyet and Turkiye
newspapers and their sister periodicals) and Gameda (a consortium of Mil-
liyet, Cumhuriyet, Sabah, Gunaydin, Tercuman newspapers and their sister
periodicals). In 1996, BBD and Yaysat, the subsidiaries of the two leading
media conglomerates, Dogan and Sabah, merged and thus came to dominate
the distribution networks, stifling small ventures and heightening the entry
barriers even further.26
Although the press field seemed to be expanding with new publications,
it was indeed highly concentrated, with slim prospects for small and inde-
pendent ventures to survive. For those publications that lacked significant
capital flows, the only viable economic revenue came (and still does) from
the official announcements and notices placed by the Directorate General of
Press Announcements (BIK—Basin Ilan Kurumu). There are certain criteria
that a newspaper must meet to be eligible for these official announcements.
For example, it must be a daily publication with a minimum of eight pages;
must have a staff of at least seven, and a circulation of five thousand. Under
these criteria, unfortunately, the majority of the BIK announcements are al-
located to national high-circulation newspapers threatening the livelihood
of small and independent actors.27

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Global Trends and the Turkish Experience
The transformation of the press in Turkey is but one instance of the global
trend toward marketization in the 1980s and 1990s, which involves the pro-
cesses of the “permeation of media and cultural sectors by market exchange”
or more specifically the “privatization of government-owned enterprises and
institutions, the lifting of restraints on businesses so they can pursuit profit
more easily and the expansion of private ownership.”28
Despite variations in national contexts, press systems around the world
transitioned to a new order prompted by political economic, sociocultural,
and technological shifts of the 1980s, and with consequences such as con-
glomeration, prioritization of corporate strategies, profit maximization, dis-
mantling of press workers’ unions, and rise of infotainment.29
This transformation of press systems, around the world and in Turkey, took
place simultaneously with the liberalization of telecommunications and com-
mercialization of broadcasting.30 The rise of the market economy and techno-
logical developments such as computerization and satellite communications
paved the way to the privatization of state-owned PTTs (postal, telephone,
and telegraph service) first in the UK and Japan and later in countries in
Latin America, Asia, and Europe.31 The pressure toward liberalization was also
present in the broadcasting field. The convergence of political economic shifts
with technological developments (i.e., the rise of computerization, emergence
of cable and satellite systems, and decline in cost of electronic communica-
tions) and sociocultural transformations paved the way to greater intercon-
nection between societies and globalization of social and cultural life, as well
as prioritization of commercial gains over public interest. In the 1980s and
1990s, Latin American countries transitioned to “market-powerful” media,
as seen in the privatization of broadcasting in Mexico, Argentina, Columbia,
and Chile; the easing of restrictions on cross-ownership and foreign direct
investment in Brazil, and the overall integration of broadcasting operations
into conglomerates.32 In the Middle East, beginning in the 1990s, increasing
accessibility of new communication technologies, economic privatization,
and the use of Gulf investment in the media field led to the emergence of
privately owned media, though with a significant degree of state control. In
Europe, both large and small countries experienced some form of the privati-
zation or sale of communication assets, the breakdown of state monopoly in
broadcasting, and the explosion of commercial channels.33 The introduction
of satellite services and the decision by the European Community to “establish
a market for television without frontiers” eroded the borders among national
broadcasting systems and ushered in the redefinition of broadcasting from

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a “cultural good under state control for cultural, political reasons [to] an
economic good which could be sold on the market.”34
In Turkey, with the restructuring of the economy in the 1980s came the
recognition of the growth potential of broadcasting. Aware of the growing
power of media and telecommunications in a globalizing world, Ozal pushed
for significant telecommunications investment as per the necessity for a de-
veloped information infrastructure. According to a 1993 World Bank report,
the PTT’s investments increased from 1 percent of GNDP to 4 percent, out-
pacing all OECD countries except Brazil.35 In this process, the pressures from
the IMF, the World Bank, and the governments of industrialized countries to
open up telecommunications and broadcasting sectors to foreign investment
also played a role.36 The European Community (the predecessor of the EU),
for example, insisted that Turkey lift restrictions on foreign investment in
telecommunications, and the IMF announced that it would withhold credit
until the privatization of the sector.37

Commercialization of Broadcasting
Broadcasting in Turkey, similar to its counterparts in Europe, Latin America,
the Middle East, and Asia, was developed as a public service to ensure qual-
ity programming and was therefore primarily funded by state subsidies and
license fees.38 On the other hand, as in developing countries, it was inter-
twined with the project of nation-building and state formation and thus
primarily served the interests of the state. Therefore, it is more apt to use
the term “state-run” as opposed to “public broadcaster” because the latter
implies the delegation of powers “to oversee the broadcaster to a relatively
neutral regulatory body or to the parliament itself,” which was never the
case in Turkey.39 Due to its patrimonial character, the Turkish state never
refrained from meddling in radio and television broadcasts. In this sense, the
Turkish experience is similar to those of developing countries, especially in
the Middle East and Southeast Asia, which launched broadcasting systems
in the post-independence years of the 1950s and 1960s to serve as symbol of
independence and tool of state formation and thus centralized them under
governmental bodies.40 The TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corpora-
tion) formulated its programming policies based on the priorities of the
state, which meant that programs aimed to disseminate the official state
ideology, shape national and cultural identity, and give audiences “what was
good and right for them.”41 In legal terms, radio and television broadcast-
ing were placed under the control of the state. According to Article 133 of
the Constitution (1982) and the Radio and Television Law (1983), the TRT,

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the broadcasting arm of the state, was put in charge of the “launching and
operation of transmitter stations for radio and television broadcasting, the
regulation of radio and television broadcasts, and national and transnational
broadcasting.”42 Beginning in late 1980s, however, the broadcasting field be-
gan to witness significant changes as it could not remain immune from all the
political economic, technological, and sociocultural developments that had
already altered the press field. The ANAP government did not openly com-
mercialize broadcasting, but it took a number of initiatives that loosened the
TRT’s monopoly, indirectly creating a favorable environment for would-be
commercial players.43 For example, it allowed the imports of satellite dishes,
which then enabled consumers (at least those who could afford one) to have
access to foreign satellite channels such as CNN, RTL, RAI, and BBC and not
to depend on the TRT as the sole source of information and entertainment.
As per its general economic policy and attempts to integrate Turkey with
the globalizing world, the government also allowed the imports of media
products (e.g., magazines, videocassettes, and video games) as well as per-
sonal computers and VCRs. Similar to the satellite dish owners, VCR owners
now had an alternative source of entertainment outside the TRT thanks to
the video rental stores that popped up in metropolitan centers and carried
a wide collection of foreign action-adventure, comedy, and erotic titles.44
A more direct development that weakened the TRT’s monopoly was the
government’s decision in 1989 to modify the ownership and operational struc-
ture of broadcast transmitters. Until then, the TRT was the sole responsible
entity that could own, set up, and operate broadcast transmitters. The new
law transferred the TRT’s ownership and operational privileges to the PTT
(Postal, Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) in a move to merge broadcast
and telecommunications networks and to “prepare the ground for the intro-
duction of commercial television.”45 Shortly after this handover, Ozal, who
by then had become the president, signaled his intention to commercialize
the broadcasting field: “Through the PTT, we will increase the number of
channels to 15. Foreign channels will be able to enter [the Turkish market]
through auctions [for spectrum allocation] as well. Whoever pays the most,
will be allocated a [piece of the] spectrum. The PTT should be the broadcast-
ing authority. Technology is changing.”46
A few months later, Ozal told reporters that there was nothing unconstitu-
tional about satellite channels beaming signals into Turkey from abroad, and
added that he would personally “take the necessary steps towards disman-
tling the state monopoly in broadcasting to expedite Turkey’s economic and
cultural integration into the globalization process.”47 A few months later, in
March 1990, a newly minted enterprise named Magic Box did just what Ozal

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had described: it started to beam broadcast signals from Germany to Turkey
via satellite. Magic Box was incorporated in Switzerland and was owned by
the up-and-coming business tycoon Cem Uzan and Ozal’s elder son, Ahmet.
Magic Box’s first channel, Star 1, began its test service in May 1990 and regular
programming in October. Its dismantling of the state monopoly over broad-
casting rested on a clever technical scheme. It uplinked program signals to
satellite transponders leased from Eutelsat and Intersat, and then downlinked
them to reception and transmission equipment leased from the PTT.48 The
handover of broadcast transmitters from the TRT to the PTT had indeed
proven useful. In its early days, Star 1 relied heavily on foreign content to
fill airtime, primarily American music videos, soap operas and serials, and
NBA games, as well as Brazilian and Mexican telenovelas. During the Gulf
War (August 1990–February 1991) it rebroadcast CNN’s special war coverage
live with simultaneous translation from English to Turkish and introduced
Turkish audiences to the fast-paced, image-centric style of broadcast news.
Star 1 relied on promotional campaigns to attract audiences, especially
women. For example, during the broadcast of soap operas, viewers would call
in to answer a question about the day’s episode and win the big prize—usu-
ally a household item like a dishwasher or a refrigerator. In addition to these
strategies, and perhaps more importantly, the channel positioned itself as an
“open-minded” channel compared to the paternalistic TRT. Tunca Toskay,
Star 1’s general manager, who had transferred from the TRT, explained the
channel’s programming philosophy as such:
Borders in broadcasting have disappeared. Signals are now beamed from
space, and cannot be restricted [by governments]. You can put a satellite
dish in your roof and watch any channel you want. Turkey needs a new
broadcasting law. The world is getting smaller. I am confident that Star 1
will succeed, because our timing is perfect. The audiences are yearning for
a different kind of broadcasting. Our programs . . . will respect the values
and traditions of Turkish people. But we will not be as strict as the TRT.49

While Star 1 attracted audiences with its relatively liberal programing (de-
tailed discussion to follow), its operation created a legal conundrum. It had
labeled itself as a foreign enterprise not subject to Turkish law, but its target
audience and advertising source were clearly located in the Turkish market.
The High Council of Radio and Television sued Star 1 for violating Article 133
of the Constitution, but the court ruled in favor of the channel, stating that
it was a satellite broadcaster, just like CNN and BBC, and thus not subject to
Turkish law. The legitimation of Star 1’s fait accompli was complete thanks
to the absence of a regulatory framework concerning satellite broadcast-

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ing. In the meantime, Ozal continued to personally endorse Star 1. At the
annual meeting of the European Association of Advertising Agencies held
in Istanbul, he spoke favorably of the dismantling of the TRT’s monopoly
in the advertising sector, which, he claimed, contributed to growing desire
for and access to consumer goods and therefore to an increase in quality of
life.50 Star 1 also received indirect backing from municipal administrations,
which, in an effort to meet their constituents’ demands for free commercial
television, set up facilities to relay the channel’s signals into their districts.51
In the meantime, Star 1’s parent company Magic Box rented cable networks
and transmission equipment from the PTT so that audiences would no longer
have to have a satellite dish to watch the country’s first commercial channel.52
Star 1 was welcomed by advertisers, who now had a new outlet to promote
their wares other than the TRT, which had strict rules on advertising airtime
and content. It also benefited from favorable press coverage as newspapers
and magazines covered its “fun, entertaining and open-minded” programs
in detail, although some were critical of its “pirate” operation.53 Even some
state organs contributed to the legitimation of Star 1. The Turkish Football
Federation, a unit of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, sold the broadcast
rights for soccer games to Star 1—a move that significantly undercut the
TRT’s ratings and advertising revenues.54 Of course, the launching and sub-
sequent success of Star 1 would not have been possible without the overall
political economic transformation of the country, namely the push toward a
free market economy, the growth of the consumer market, the creation of a
favorable environment for advertisers, and the presence of audiences hungry
for alternatives to the TRT.
Not surprisingly, Star 1 opened the floodgates for other players who had
been eagerly waiting to invest in broadcasting. As Haluk Sahin and Asu Aksoy
note, “there was a gold rush to skim off maximum benefits while the legal
vacuum existed. Prospective broadcasters were caught up in a race to grab
as much of the electromagnetic spectrum as possible,” and as a result by 1992
there were sixteen national and hundreds of local television channels and radio
stations in operation.55 Despite the pessimistic profits, business moguls hastily
invested in the broadcasting sector, just as they did to acquire newspapers.
The explosion of commercial broadcasting was certainly chaotic, but not
unforeseen. As Cem Pekman notes, the process was one of “planned chaos”
whereby the government, through its investments in the telecommunica-
tions infrastructure, transfer of transmission rights to the PTT, and Ozal’s
personal support, paved the way to deregulation of the market without any
reform.56 In ways similar to the commercialization of broadcasting systems
around the world, the developments in Turkey were driven by the dynamics

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of the market, and not policy: “Law had to step aside or be modified when
it was seen as a hindrance to the expansion of the market. Considerations
of economics and economic policy took precedence in the effort to reform
the structure of broadcasting.”57
As in other national contexts, the rapid commercialization of broadcasting
had significant implications for the state-run broadcaster, most significantly
the loss of advertising revenues. By 1992, the Turkish broadcasting market
was dominated by four commercial channels (Show TV, Star 1, Tele On, and
Kanal 6) who together took 70 percent of audience share.58 The sharp decline
in advertising exacerbated the TRT’s problems of financial and political au-
tonomy.59 Unlike the public enterprises in Europe, the TRT was unable to
effectively deal with the challenges introduced by rapid commercialization.
In the absence of strategic planning and long-term vision, it failed to adapt
its programming output in response to commercial competitors.60

Cross-Ownership and Concentration

The explosion of commercial broadcasting had implications on the press sec-
tor as well. Newspaper publishers in Turkey, similar to their counterparts in
Europe, were fearful of losing their advertising revenues to the new channels
and also aspired to exploit television as a new investment opportunity.61 In
Europe, press enterprises in the 1990s took advantage of the lack of measures
against cross-ownership and successfully ventured into the audiovisual sec-
tor, hoping to “diversify out of their relatively mature sector into the faster
growth areas of commercial broadcasting,” which eventually led to the market
domination of Murdoch, Bertelsmann, and Berlusconi in press and broad-
casting fields.62 A similar trend played out in Turkey. Driven by the promise
of sharing cross-media content to decrease expenses and to broaden their
reach, the leading newspaper enterprises quickly launched their own chan-
nels.63 Now in addition to their varied business interests in nonmedia sectors
(banking, energy, textile, insurance, trade tourism, and manufacturing), they
came to own television channels, too. As Gulseren Adakli notes, for business
tycoons, newspaper and television ownership meant a powerful means of
sustaining and promoting their retail businesses, insurance agencies, banks,
and financial services, as well as gaining access to and exerting influence
on political circles.64 This arrangement inevitably turned newspapers and
television channels into tools that media proprietors used to defame each
other, ultimately culminating in the “media wars” of the 1990s between the
two major media conglomerates, Dogan and Bilgin. As the veteran journalist
I quoted earlier explained:

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[T]he “media wars” of the 1990s did not stem from differences in ideologi-
cal or political viewpoints, but were the result of economic competition
between media bosses. For example, on television journalists, columnists,
pundits were attacking their colleagues in the opposing camp instead of
responding to local and international developments. News bulletins had
turned into forum[s] whereby journalists acted like their bosses’ attack
dogs and said, “your boss evaded this many millions in taxes”—“no, your
boss did.” It was shameful.65

Liberalization of Broadcasting Content?

Despite the adverse developments in regard to cross-ownership and concen-
tration, the early years of commercial broadcasting (1990–1993) are generally
regarded as an era of openness in terms of content. During the state monopoly
of the TRT, programming policy was shaped around the official state ideol-
ogy and excluded elements of popular culture that seemingly threatened
national unity, culture, and language. As Asu Aksoy and Kevin Robins note:
TRT’s output was directed to an ideal, and idealized, people who were
unified in their shared citizenship and national attachment. The broadcast-
ing monopoly assumed a highly censorious attitude—which gave rise to
practices of exclusion and open censorship—towards whatever it regarded
as deviant in cultural tone or attitude. This stance has amounted to a puri-
fication of the cultural space: TRT has sought to rid the cultural environ-
ment of what it perceived as its peripheral, rural, sentimental, unruly, or
disorderly elements.66

To attract audiences and advertisers, the commercial channels, in stark

contrast to the TRT, adopted a more liberal attitude and filled countless hours
of airtime with banned or censored Turkish films, foreign erotic content, and
political talk shows about sensitive issues.67 This “liberalization” was wel-
comed as an indicator of a democratic and culturally heterogeneous represen-
tation, yet it must nonetheless be qualified with the fact that the commercial
channels were owned by conglomerates that were in cozy relationships with
the power holders. Political talk shows and entertainment programs did have
a wider repertoire of representation than the TRT and did grant visibility
to Kurds, Islamists, and gays and lesbians, but they also ensured that these
political and cultural identities remained strictly at the level of the individual.
Political talk shows served as a debating forum for ethnic origin, language,
religion, and gender issues but portrayed them only as private matters that

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could now be discussed in public. By way of creating and circulating such
an individualized, commercialized, and privatized representation of political
and cultural identities, they failed to discuss collective democratic rights or
aspirations. Commercial broadcasters promoted these shows—and, by exten-
sion, themselves—as champions of democratic participation and freedom
of expression. “Turkey is speaking up” was a commonly used phrase at the
time, yet this was merely a shallow version of public communication.
As Daniel Hallin observes, media discourses in the late twentieth cen-
tury were increasingly directed at individuals rather than communities or
organized social groups, which led to the depoliticization of public com-
munication.68 “By the 1990s, the talk show could probably be considered
the quintessential forum of political communication, in which individual
citizens express their particular opinions, and collective political institutions
are generally seen as obstacles to the realization of their ends.”69 In the case
of Turkey, talk shows presented a highly individualized version of political
culture and communication. They were the outcome of the process of “hol-
lowing out of politics” and the replacement of the “engaged civil society . . .
by the veneer-like utopia of the market and consumption.”70 In other words,
political talk shows and, by extension, commercial channels were legitimated
through the “rhetoric of empowerment and liberation,” a common theme of
neoliberal logic.71

Rise of Islamist Media

While the mushrooming commercial channels and their American sitcoms,
European erotic titles, and political talk shows were welcomed by many, the
influx of so-called Western values (individualism, consumerism, premarital
sex, etc.) featured on these programs caused serious concern among religious
conservative circles. As Sahin and Aksoy note, Islamists were simply repulsed
by the “openness” on commercial television and “thought it was leading to
cultural destruction.”72 In response to the Western influence and power and
the supposed undermining of traditional Muslim values, Islamists began to
launch their own new channels. Taking advantage of the dismantling of the
TRT monopoly, dozens of small stations popped up across the country at
the local level, most of which were owned by religious orders and aimed to
promote an Islamist worldview. By 1993, their numbers reached thirty-one.73
At the national level, major channels such as Samanyolu and TGRT were
launched in 1993, followed by Kanal 7 in 1994. Samanyolu was financed by
the Gulen community, TGRT was part of the Ihlas Holding, and Kanal 7 had

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organic ties with the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi—RP).74 These channels
(and their sister outlets in print media) differed from each other in terms of
ownership structures, sectarian affiliations, and programming philosophies.
Despite their differences, Islamist broadcast outlets nonetheless shared
the same concern; that is, Western imperialism via television. Ayse Oncu
notes that these outlets endeavored to promote a sense of religious identity
for viewers so as to offset the so-called perils that mainstream channels har-
bored. In their early days, they primarily broadcast religious programming,
yet they soon recognized the need to appeal to broader audience segments,
so they began to include local and foreign news on primetime.75
At this point, it would be useful to map the connections between the
Islamist channels in Turkey and their counterparts in the Middle East and
Southeast Asia. For example, in Pakistan in the 1990s, religious conservative
channels emerged partly as a response to the flow of foreign programming
perceived to be culturally destructive. Whereas in Turkey it was the domestic
infotainment-oriented channels that were seen as the source of degenera-
tion, in Pakistan, it was satellite television.76 In the Arab world, the explo-
sion of satellite television in the 1990s caused similar controversies about
Western cultural invasion and paved the way to more conservative outlets
and programming.77 These religious channels, whether in Turkey, Pakistan,
or the Middle East, not only aimed to preserve Islamic culture but also had a
political component—that is, to focus on the shared experience of “Muslims
as the underdogs” and to unite against the West—as seen in the coverage of
the Bosnian conflict and the Palestinian struggle in the 1990s.78

Legalization of Commercial Broadcasting

The early years of commercial broadcasting in Turkey (1990–1993) were
chaotic, whereby the new channels operated in an illegal fashion and the
market was deregulated without any reform. There were nonetheless some
attempts to resolve the issue. A parliamentary commission was established
to amend the Constitution in order to legalize commercial broadcasting,
and the then coalition government in office initiated a draft legislation to
regulate the broadcasting market. However, the enactment of regulation was
delayed due to lack of agreement among political parties and the recurring
changes in key political positions at government and party levels.79 Faced
with the continuing legal confusion, the coalition government declared com-
mercial broadcasters illegal and announced that their operations would be
suspended, with the exception of channels that beamed signals from abroad.
Since these were technically considered foreign channels, they could not
be shut down as per the European Commission’s Transfrontier Television

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Agreement, to which Turkey was a signatory.80 There were speculations as to
why the government suddenly decided to suspend commercial broadcasting.
Some argued that the military was upset with the Islamist channels, while
others directed attention to the music industry’s intense lobbying efforts in
response to commercial radio stations’ copyright violations.81 Whatever the
reason behind it, the suspension decision was met with criticism from the
opposition parties, commercial broadcasters, and citizens, who all com-
plained about the antidemocratic attitude of the government and portrayed
commercial broadcasting as a means of free expression and an essential part
of a democratic civil society. Finally, in 1993, under pressure from media
owners who had amassed a significant amount of political and economic
power and from the politicians who wished to accommodate the demands
of the marketplace, the Parliament amended Article 133 of the Constitution.
Broadcasting was now open to private enterprise. In 1994, the Parliament
passed the Broadcasting Law (Law 3984 on the Establishment of Radio and
Television Enterprises and Their Broadcasts) to establish rules of ownership
and to prevent monopolies, cross-ownership, and consolidation. For example,
Article 29 limited ownership of radio or television channels to corporations
and barred political parties, professional associations, labor unions, and
foundations from owning broadcasting outlets. Article 29 also stipulated
that a single individual could not own more than 20 percent of the shares in
a given media company. Also, if the individual owned shares in more than
one company, then the total of his or her shares in those companies could
not exceed 20 percent. Foreign investors (real persons or legal entities) could
hold shares only in one broadcasting enterprise, with the limit capped at 20
percent. Individuals who had a 10 percent share in a broadcasting enterprise
were barred from taking part in state bids and tenders. Media enterprises
could own only one radio station and one television channel.82 In practice,
though, media owners easily bypassed these restrictions, exploiting the legal
loopholes and hiding their shares. Therefore, despite the Broadcasting Law,
or perhaps enabled by its provisions, which were open to legal exploitation,
the broadcasting (and by extension media) field came to be dominated by
five players by the mid-1990s, namely Dogan, Bilgin, Aksoy, Ihlas, and Uzan,
who owned a number of television and radio channels, newspapers, and
periodicals and dominated the distribution networks in the press field.83
The Broadcasting Law also established the Radio and Television Supreme
Council (RTUK) as the regulatory body in charge of monitoring content,
assigning frequencies, and issuing permits and licenses. But the RTUK had
(and still does have) a highly politicized makeup since it was composed of
nine members appointed by the Parliament, with five members from the
ruling party and four from the opposition parties.84 Despite its so-called

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autonomous status, the RTUK’s ability in developing its own principles is
limited, and it functions more like a penalizing and censoring body as op-
posed to a regulatory one.85 This stems from the fact that the RTUK has
been granted extensive punitive powers such as the ability to issue warnings,
impose monetary fines, suspend broadcasts (for a number of days), or even
revoke licenses. Moreover, the imposition of the official state ideology as seen
in Article 4 of the Broadcasting Law instituted the RTUK as a political instru-
ment to serve the state interests: “All broadcasts shall observe the existence
and independence of the Turkish Republic, the indivisible integrity of the
state with its territory and nation, national and moral values of the society,
general moral values, Turkish family structure; shall not incite the society to
violence, terror, ethnical discrimination or incite hatred; shall observe the
general objectives and basic principles of the Turkish national education
system and the principle on the fostering of the national culture.”86

The post-1980 transformation of the media system in Turkey raises a number
of issues that resonate across much of the world. First, the perceived link
between economic liberalization and the creation of a pluralistic and diverse
media system, as the Turkish experience shows, is a tenuous one. Similar to
other national contexts in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East,
and Asia, the facade of the high number of outlets and the so-called fierce
competition among them simply serves to hide the accumulation of economic
power in the hands of a few conglomerates.87 Indeed, the media field in
Turkey is ordered around an oligopoly whereby corporate giants dominate,
small players are marginalized, entry barriers are high, and production and
distribution are centralized under conglomerates.88 The Turkish case thus
serves as a useful reminder that the free market does not create a media
field that “acts [as] an agency of information and debate that facilitates the
functioning of democracy.”89 In point of fact, this democratic ideal is un-
dermined precisely because of the adoption of free market principles since
it leads to high costs of market entry, excludes social groups with limited
financial resources from competing, and creates a “market system which is
not genuinely open to all, but which is controlled by corporate wealth.”90 In
this sense, the Turkish experience provides a counterargument to liberal
theory that argues media needs to be organized in a free market to carry out
its watchdog function. As this chapter shows, Turkey’s media transformation
was carried out by business and political elites and thus served to aggregate
the elite interests, not those of the polity. The free market was confused with

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Yesil_Text.indd 49
Table 2. Major media groups in Turkey in the late 1990s
Owner Newspapers TV Bank Other nonmedia interests
Dogan Group Hurriyet, Posta, Kanal D, CNN Turk Disbank Energy, tourism, industry, automotive
Radikal, Gozcu Milliyet
Uzan Group Star Star, Star 24 Adabank, Telecommunications, cement, electricity
Imar Bankasi
Bilgin Group Sabah ATV Etibank
Cukurova Group Aksam, Gunes Show TV, Sky Turk, Yapi ve Kredi Construction, industry, telecommunications,
DigiTurk (digital Bankasi, IT, insurance, service
platform) Pamukbank
Korkmaz Yigit Milliyet, Yeni Yuzyil Kanal 6, Kanal E

This table is based on the information presented in Kaya, Iktidar Yumagi, and Adakli, Turkiye’de Medya Endustrisi.

5/13/16 12:10 PM
freedom to communicate or democratization, but this so-called freedom was
available only to the conglomerates and not to independent actors.
Second, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Turkish experience illustrates
the state’s continuing presence (and, in some cases, calculated absence) in the
political economic domain and its central role in shaping media markets. As
seen during the mushrooming of (illegal) commercial television channels, the
state, in order to enable market liberalization chose not to institute proper
regulatory frameworks. On the other hand, it did institute stringent press and
broadcasting laws and created entities such as the RTUK not to regulate but to
manage cultural production. Turkey’s media system thus came to be defined
by the articulation of economic liberalization with weak democratic consoli-
dation and patrimonial institutions. In this regard, it resonates with its coun-
terparts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where late twentieth-century
media commercialization took place against the background of a certain po-
litical economic order with persistent state interference and weak democratic
institutions. In Egypt, the relative commercialization of media industries in
the 1990s resulted in growing numbers of privately owned newspapers and
magazines and greater access to foreign media and satellite television.91 Some
freedoms were recognized in the laws, but in practice media practitioners con-
tinued to suffer from prosecution, and public authorities continued to censor
content that was allegedly threatening to national security, religious beliefs,
and social norms.92 This was also partly a result of private media owners’ efforts
to reinforce regime stability in order to protect their own business interests.93
Indeed, as Tariq Sabry notes, restrictions on media and cultural production
in Arab states are not simply the byproduct of authoritarian traditions but
the result of the ruling elites’ impulse to maintain their political economic
interests.94 In Pakistan, commercial radio and television expanded early in
the twenty-first century, but their availability was circumscribed by the state.
To “shield the rural population from commercial news and entertainment,”
state authorities allowed commercial channels only on cable and satellite and
reserved terrestrial broadcasting to state media.95 They also imposed strict
regulation on commercial content in order to protect the interests of the
military, bureaucracy, and religious leaders—a trend commonly observed in
Arab media systems as well. In Turkey, media commercialization in the 1980s
and 1990s was imbricated with the heavy hand of the state and specifically the
national security paradigm that led both state-run and commercial outlets to
portray phenomena such as the Kurdish conflict and the rise of political Islam
as threats to national unity and state survival. The following chapter explores
these issues in light of the political economic alliances between media outlets,
the military, and state organs.

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3. Containing Kurdish Nationalism
and Political Islam in the 1990s

In transformational terms, the 1990s were marked as the “lost de-

cade” since, after Ozal’s Motherland Party left office, the country was ruled by
one weak coalition government after another (a total of eight governments)
and was rocked by persistent political instability and economic vulnerability.
Moreover, the armed struggle between the Turkish army and the PKK, which
had begun in the mid-1980s, intensified and culminated in what is referred to
as the “dirty war,” which was marked with widespread human rights abuses,
disappearances, torture, and depopulation of countless Kurdish villages in the
southeastern provinces. By the end of the 1990s, close to thirty-five thousand
people had died (both Kurds and Turks), three thousand villages had been
destroyed, and approximately three million Kurds had been uprooted.1
Given the guerilla war with the PKK and the perceived threats from Kurd-
ish ethnic nationalism, the military positioned itself as central to the project of
maintaining Turkey’s territorial integrity and national unity and legitimized
the national security paradigm with the collaboration of law enforcement,
the intelligence community, elected officials, and the media. Throughout the
1990s, the military constantly topped the list of the country’s “most trusted
institutions.” According to a 1996 survey, the Turkish Armed Forces was seen
as the sole protector of the country’s territorial integrity, national unity, and
secular order against threats both internal and external and was trusted by
81.3 percent of the respondents.2 This number rose to 90.3 percent in early
1997 when public perceptions of radical Islam and Kurdish separatist threats
started running higher.3 The elevated levels of public trust in the military
was the outcome of three interconnected factors: 1) the low regard of the
general populace for both political parties and coalition governments, 2) the

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perceived threat of various internal and external enemies allegedly plotting to
weaken and divide the country, and 3) creative attempts on part of the media
to fan fears and anxieties about the twin threats of Kurdish nationalism and
political Islam.
As noted in chapter 1, the Turkish Armed Forces maintained institutional
hegemony over politics following the country’s transition to multiparty de-
mocracy in 1950. The military staged its first coup in 1960 on the pretext of
the DP government’s authoritarian tendencies and perceived threats to the
secular order. Later, in 1971 and 1980, anarchy and violence between the
radical left and right stood as justifications for military interventions; in 1997
the reason was political Islam. Masters of manipulating times of crisis when
civilian leaders were portrayed as having failed or being unable to govern,
the military had been particularly adept at profiting from periods when
the country seemed so convulsed with economic and political turmoil that
intervention positioned it as “guarantor of last resort of stability and public
order.”4 What motivated the military was not only its so-called duty to safe-
guard the state but also its self-assuring need to restore “receding political
power and social status” in an era of multiparty democracy.5 Similarly, in
the 1990s, the military’s attempts to rein in the twin threats of Kurdish na-
tionalism and political Islam were fueled by its need to reassert its political
heft at a time when the newly empowered political actors had just begun to
interrogate and challenge the nationalist, secularist mindset of Kemalism.
After each intervention, the military restored civilian rule but at the same
time entrenched itself more firmly in politics, with the aim of checking future
elected governments and, more importantly, of reconfiguring the country’s
political and economic structures in accordance with global and domestic
imperatives of the time. As Ilhan Uzgel notes, the 1960 coup did not simply
topple the conservative DP government; it established the constitutional basis
of military tutelage and entrenched the statist-developmentalist economic
model in the post–World War II era.6 Likewise, the 1980 coup did more than
overthrow an inefficient coalition government to restore public order; it also
instituted a restrictive and antidemocratic political regime in order to facili-
tate the transition to a market economy.7 Between 1980 and 1983, military
leadership established the National Security Council (NSC) to control the
elected government, created the Higher Education Council (YOK) to over-
see higher education institutions, and introduced legal changes to remain
immune from judicial review.8 By placing like-minded sympathizers in the
judiciary and state bureaucracy, the military cemented its self-proclaimed
role as the guardian of the Republic, while its leadership established close
ties with secular-Kemalist civil society organizations and media outlets, all

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of which helped to advocate the military’s involvement in politics as a means
of defending the country.9
This chapter analyzes the media’s role in the containment of Kurdish ethnic
nationalism and political Islam as undertaken by the military-led state in the
1990s. In this transformational decade, the emergence of new actors—such
as commercial media, civil society organizations, Islamist networks, and
Kurdish activists—created serious concerns for the Kemalist elite and the
political economic order they had established decades ago. From the military-
bureaucratic circles to the pro-state big capital owners, these power holders
hoped to preserve their clout and sustain the central power of the state at a
time when the country was encountering global, neoliberal currents. This
chapter first discusses the reproduction of nationalist ethos in mainstream
media and the state suppression of Kurdish media, both domestically and
transnationally. It then investigates the state’s attempts to rein in political
Islam and the role mainstream media assumed in this process. In both sec-
tions, emphasis is placed on the political economic pacts between military-
bureaucratic elite and media proprietors.

Nationalist Discourse in Mainstream Media

As noted earlier, the Turkish state had always denied the existence of Kurds
and criminalized all Kurdish and pro-Kurdish expression. In the 1990s, pre-
mised on the military campaign against the PKK and the crackdown on
Kurds’ ethnic, cultural, and political rights, the construction of Kurds as
enemies in mainstream media became ubiquitous. As Dilara Sezgin and
Melissa Wall’s analysis of the mainstream Hurriyet’s coverage reveals, news
articles unfailingly denied Kurds’ political problems and conflated them with
terrorism.10 One article declared, “there is no Kurdish problem in Turkey
which needs a political solution. Turkey has a terrorism problem,” and this
undoubtedly mirrored the prevailing discourse of the time.
The reliance on government and military sources for information, the fail-
ure to give a voice to the Kurds, the disparaging representation of the Kurdish
language and culture, and the portrayal of any Kurdish expression as terrorist
activity was not limited to Hurriyet but was manifest in other mainstream
press and broadcast outlets as well.11 In point of fact, nationalism, in all of its
overt and covert forms, had always been a potent force in Turkey’s political
and media systems. As Arus Yumul and Umut Ozkirimli found in their analy-
sis of three dozen national dailies in late 1990s, banal nationalism—the sort
comprised of a country’s routine, unnoticed practices, its ideological beliefs,
and the archetypes meant to represent it in public—had been ubiquitous in

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the Turkish press. The motifs of banal nationalism range(d) from displays
of Turkey’s flag or map in newspaper logos to the deployment of the nation
or nationhood meme in newspaper brand names or in slogans (in Hurriyet’s
infamous “Turkey for the Turks” slogan, for example).12
Needless to say, news stories and op-ed columns cautioned the public
against those internal and external enemies, traitors, and conspirators bent
on destroying Turkey’s national unity. A striking example of this trend mate-
rialized in the 1996 “flag campaign,” which was initiated by media outlets in
response to an incident in which the Turkish flag had been pulled down at a
meeting attended by Kurdish activists and politicians. As Yael Navaro-Yashin
notes, popular television channels of the time, Star TV and Show TV, along
with Hurriyet called on the public to follow up this incident with their own
display of Turkish flags on their windows, to which the public complied.13
This episode illustrates the active role played by certain media outlets in the
mobilization of the public against the Kurds and in the “production and
reproduction of thralldom for the Turkish state.”14

Media-Military Relationships
As discussed in chapter 2, mainstream media’s alignment with official state
ideology was premised on patron-client relationships between media moguls
and power brokers. In the 1990s, the military used a combination of com-
pulsion and coercion strategies to elicit the participation of media outlets
in the legitimization of anti-Kurdish sentiment. In an attempt to control
the news and information flow, for example, the General Staff restricted
journalists’ access to Kurdish provinces and military sources and even gave
direct instructions to editors and newspaper owners on how to cover the
armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces. In April
1990, prominent journalists and editors were invited to a meeting with the
president, military, and intelligence officers. At the meeting they were told
not to call PKK’s activities an “uprising” and PKK members “guerrilla fight-
ers,” but to frame them as terrorism and terrorists.15 Confirming such reports
of military gatekeeping, a Kurdish journalist, who worked in mainstream
media at the time, told me:
We didn’t know what was actually happening in the southeast. Military
and government officials would release statements about PKK militants
killing innocent villagers or abducting teachers, or about how many PKK
militants were killed in the latest clashes. Yet we were never able to go and
investigate for ourselves. We were not allowed to go to [Kurdish] villages

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or visit the army headquarters in the region. We were not allowed to in-
terview anyone, from the PKK or the Turkish army. Our only source was
the military-issued press release.16

There were other strategies that military officers used to pressure media
owners, editors, and journalists. For example, a high-ranking officer would
pay a visit to an editor and show a folder containing articles with which they
were “displeased,” and the officer would ask the editor to be “more sensi-
tive” in his paper’s coverage of the Kurdish issue. In what has been termed
the “telephone culture” of the 1990s, editors would predictably receive calls
from the General Staff when they took a critical stance toward the military’s
hardline approach.
Mainstream media’s complicity in the military-led anti-Kurdish campaign
and corresponding tactics used by high-level military officers to manage
public opinion were exposed in a jarring incident in April 1998, when al-
leged testimony from a captured PKK field commander, Semdin Sakik, got
leaked to the media by the General Staff. For two consecutive days, leading
dailies Hurriyet and Sabah printed alleged testimony that fingered a number
of politicians, journalists, and businessmen as “being on PKK’s payroll.”17
Among this group were prominent journalists Cengiz Candar and Mehmet
Ali Birand, both of whom worked at Sabah at the time. After the so-called
leaked testimony, they were readily branded by Oktay Eksi, Hurriyet’s head
columnist, as “scums” and “backstabbers,”18 after which Candar was sus-
pended and Birand fired. Two years later, in 2000, revelations surfaced that
Sakik’s testimony had been fabricated and leaked to the media by two high-
ranking military generals in a move aimed to punish Candar and Birand for
their reporting of the Turkish Armed Forces. Dinc Bilgin, the former owner
of Sabah, shed light on the “Sakik incident” in a 2006 interview:
I didn’t personally believe that Birand, Candar [and others] received money
from the PKK. But I [published the story] because I had to protect my
newspaper. Now that I look back, I know it wasn’t the right thing to do. But
back then every newspaper had relations with the military. [It was because]
of the bids and contracts distributed by the state.19

Looking back, Candar wrote of the media-military relationships:

The General Staff acted as the “executive body” of the “real center of power”
and it applied indirect pressure on the media. This pressure was aimed not
at the media as an institution but at certain elements or constituents. . . .
[Media bosses] were not under direct pressure but rather engaged in [this
suppressive effort] voluntarily. . . . Self-censorship was common. Op-ed

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columns perceived to be disagreeable to the military were censored [by
the editors]. There was also “silencing” aimed at Birand, myself and others
[because of our criticism of the military].20

Though unsettling, the military’s suppression of news media was not lim-
ited to the “Sakik incident”; Candar and Birand were not the sole victims of
the media-military alliance. Throughout the 1990s, several journalists were
put on trial or imprisoned for expressing their political opinions on the
Kurdish issue; some were laid off by media barons who did not want to cross
the generals. For example, in 1995, Ahmet Altan was fired by mainstream
Milliyet for an op-ed column in which he ruminated “What If Ataturk Was
a Kurd?” In 1998, Andrew Finkel, a foreign correspondent in Turkey for
almost two decades, was put on trial for defaming the Turkish military and
was later fired by Sabah, for which he worked at the time.21

Criminalization of (Pro-)Kurdish Expression

While mainstream media promulgated anti-Kurdish sentiment under the
military’s direct and indirect pressures, the courts continually prosecuted
journalists, editors, and writers who were working for Kurdish publications,
liberally applying a legal framework that stood in a symbiotic relationship
with the state’s hard-liner policy. Among the legal provisions the courts have
used against Kurdish journalists are several articles of the 1982 Constitution
that underline the safeguarding of the state. For example, the preamble of
the Constitution “affirm[s] the eternal existence of the Turkish Motherland
and Nation and the indivisible unity of the Sublime Turkish State,” while
Article 28 criminalizes “anyone who writes any news or articles threatening
the internal or external security of the State or the indivisible integrity of the
State with its territory and nation, and inciting offence, riot or insurrection.”
To cover the other so-called crimes against the state that might fall out-
side these constitutional provisions, prosecutors have also heavily used the
Anti-Terror Law of 1991 to accuse journalists, editors, and even distributors
of “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization” (Article 2),
of “announcing the crimes of terrorist organizations, disclosing the iden-
tity of anti-terror officials, identifying these persons as targets, printing or
publishing leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations” (Article 6),
and of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” (Article 7). Despite
some amendments passed in 2006, the law remains a major obstacle to press
freedoms, especially because of its broad-based definitions of terrorism and
terrorist propaganda. Its provisions are so broad and vague that even an in-

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terview with a PKK leader or a quote from him in a news report can be the
basis of harsh charges against Kurdish journalists, as was the case of the 2009
crackdown on the Kurdish press (see chapter 5 for a detailed discussion).
Courts have also used Article 216 of the Penal Code to prosecute Kurdish
journalists on charges of “inciting sections of the population to enmity or
hatred toward another group on the basis of social class, race, religion, or sec-
tarian difference, in a manner which may present a clear and imminent danger
in terms of public safety.” Other provisions of the article conflate even basic
newsgathering activities with “committing a crime on behalf of an organiza-
tion,” “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly,” “making
propaganda for an organization and its objectives,” “attempting to change the
constitutional order by force,” and “being a member of an organization.”22
As a result, countless Kurdish journalists have been imprisoned over the
years, and pro-Kurdish newspapers have been repeatedly confiscated or
closed. Nothing summarizes the cat-and-mouse game between the state
and the Kurdish press as clearly as the case of Ozgur Gundem (“Free Agenda”
in Turkish) and its successors. Launched in 1992, Ozgur Gundem was closed
in 1994 under charges of spreading terrorist propaganda. Before its termina-
tion by the State Security Court, dozens of Ozgur Gundem journalists and
distributors were arrested, hundreds of issues confiscated, and the paper’s
offices raided by the police on several occasions. Ozgur Gundem was followed
by nine other similarly named papers, which were closed one after another
while their staff were prosecuted.23 In 2011, Ozgur Gundem was published
under its original name only to be closed again for a period of one month.
In the 1990s, the state’s suppression of the Kurdish press was not limited
to the courtroom. The printing houses that printed Kurdish newspapers, the
distribution companies that distributed them, and the news kiosks or coffee
shops that sold them were among the constant targets of police raids and
criminal investigations. At the same time, the “disappearances” of Kurdish
journalists became normal. While there are no official data available from
the Turkish government, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists,
twenty-one journalists have been murdered in Turkey since 1992 (mostly in
the southeastern provinces), eighteen of whom were Kurds or worked for a
Kurdish publication.24
Aside from newspapers, local radio and television stations were also sub-
ject to penalties ranging from hefty monetary fines and temporary black-
outs to indefinite closures for their coverage of the Kurdish issue. 25 Even
audiocassettes of popular Kurdish singers were banned by local authorities
in the southeast. Undoubtedly, the main source of pressure on Kurdish and
mainstream news media has been the Turkish state. But it is important to

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acknowledge that the PKK itself imposed certain restrictions on news and
information flow. According to Reporters without Borders, the “PKK had
a hostile attitude toward mainstream press and private television stations
because of the belief that they spy for military or intelligence organizations.”
For example, in 1993 the PKK ordered all regional bureau chiefs of main-
stream dailies to cease operations because of their “biased and one-sided
reporting . . . which favored state forces and acted like the henchmen of the
. . . Emergency Rule Governor.”26

Turkish State and Kurdish Satellite Broadcasting

As the courts came to criminalize Turkey-based Kurdish print and audio-
visual media, and the military applied both direct and indirect pressure on
mainstream outlets, an alternative source of information emerged that stood
in direct opposition to the state. It was the first Kurdish satellite station,
MED TV, launched in Europe in 1995. The story of the repeated conflicts
between the Turkish state and MED TV is insightful, for it illustrates how
the state responded to Kurdish broadcasting to prevent the undermining of
its official ideology.
MED TV was based in Europe but beamed its signals to millions of Kurds
living in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.27 It had its headquarters in London,
with studios in Berlin, Brussels, and Stockholm, and was licensed by the ITC,
the Independent Television Commission in the UK. MED TV broadcast in
two Kurdish dialects, as well as in Turkish, Arabic, and English, and featured
newscasts, political debates, documentaries, entertainment, and children’s
programming.28 Financing came from the Kurdish Foundation Trust and
private supporters who aimed to “assist in the development of the cultural
identity of the Kurdish people and the Kurdish language throughout the
world; to establish, promote and maintain media facilities and resources to
educate and inform the Kurdish people; and to work for the relief of poverty
and suffering amongst the Kurdish people.”29
MED TV was obviously welcomed by Kurds living in Turkey but was re-
garded as the mouthpiece of the PKK by the Turkish state. As Kira Kosnick
notes, the station “presented a challenge to Turkey’s territory-based cultural
politics, and ruptured the Turkish military’s monopoly on information re-
garding the Kurdish issue.”30 Bilgin Ayata adds that MED TV, “by highlight-
ing the suffering of Kurdish civilians, provided the first unrestricted public
counter-discourse.”31 According to a Kurdish journalist who works at an
independently owned television channel, the emergence of MED TV was

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significant because “this was the first time [that] the Kurdish media broke
the cycle of repression. Turkish police could not detain, arrest or kill [these]
Kurdish journalists, because they were in Europe. This was also the first time
Kurdish language was heard on television.”32 In response, the Turkish state
resorted to tactics ranging from jamming MED TV’s signals to lobbying
European satellite companies to cease transmitting the station.33 According to
some reports, to prevent the viewing of MED TV in southeastern provinces,
military officers even destroyed satellite dishes in homes and intimidated dish
vendors and installers.34 A more commonly used tactic was the application
of diplomatic pressure on European countries, using the argument that the
licensing, ownership, and programming of MED TV violated the EU Direc-
tive of Television without Frontiers, which stipulated that “program services
. . . shall not give undue prominence to violence or be likely to incite racial
hatred” and that “governments shall ensure that broadcasts do not contain
any incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality.”35
There was also pressure on the ITC to revoke MED TV’s license because
its programs allegedly “threatened Turkey’s territorial integrity and made
propaganda for the terrorist organization, PKK.”36 Between 1996 and 1998, the
ITC issued several warnings and fined MED TV on the grounds that it lacked
balance in political coverage. Finally, in 1999, the ITC revoked MED TV’s
license.37 Following the termination of MED TV’s broadcasts, in July 1999
Medya TV went on air—this time with the signal emanating from France. The
Turkish government once again undertook an intense lobbying campaign,
and in February 2004 it managed to convince the French licensing authority
to shut down Medya TV. A month later, ROJ TV started broadcasting from
Denmark with the aim of “shoulder[ing] the responsibility to protect and
preserve the Kurdish culture and language.” Unsurprisingly, it too was met
with complaints that the Turkish authorities filed with the Danish Radio and
Television Board.38 While the board did not find any violations on part of ROJ
TV at the time, in 2010 the Danish attorney general indicted the station for
“promoting terrorist activities.” In 2012, a Danish court ruled that ROJ TV
was owned by the PKK and found it guilty of “promoting terrorism” and of
“one-sidedly and uncritically disseminating PKK messages.” The court did
not revoke ROJ TV’s license, but it did impose a monetary fine of close to
$900,000.39 At the present time, ROJ TV continues to broadcast via satel-
lite in seventy countries and remains widely popular among the Kurdish
community in Turkey. It has also since been joined by a handful of smaller
ventures that use the Internet to bypass technical, logistic, and legal issues
that have long burdened satellite operations.

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Changes in State Policy toward the Kurdish Issue
In the 1990s, the Turkish state’s modus operandi regarding the Kurdish issue
had undoubtedly been premised on denial and repression, yet there had also
been some efforts to adopt a more liberal policy toward the Kurds. The first
elected civilian to recognize the Kurdish ethnic identity was Ozal, who in
1990 as president both publicly acknowledged that part of his ancestry was
Kurdish and spoke of his intention to solve the Kurdish issue. A year later,
Suleyman Demirel, then prime minister, also asserted that Turkey could
not deny the ethnic identity of Kurds any longer and must acknowledge the
“Kurdish reality.”40 At a time when the state policy had been predicated on a
military solution, both Ozal’s and Demirel’s statements were groundbreak-
ing and instrumental in the 1991 parliamentary decision to abolish the ban
on singing, speaking, and publishing in Kurdish. It is important to note
that these liberalization efforts coincided with the emergence of commercial
broadcasting and the ensuing televised debates among Kurdish nationalists,
government officials, and citizens. However, this relative liberalization in the
political and media fields was short-lived and was soon dampened with the
escalation of armed conflict, the passage of the draconian Anti-Terror Law,
and the restrictive RTUK law, which brought heavy penalties against content
that “violated the integrity of the state”—that is, pro-Kurdish content.41
The Kurdish issue in the 1990s portends the tussle between autocratic state
institutions and the miscellaneous actors who dared to challenge them. The
site where this struggle revealed itself most visibly was news media, which
created new opportunities for the articulation of Kurds’ demands but was sup-
pressed by legal restrictions and military pressures. By the turn of the century,
the state’s hardliner approach toward the Kurdish issue began to weaken as a
result of several converging developments. These included Ocalan’s capture
in 1999, the PKK’s decision to drop armed struggle, and the emergence of a
more moderate Kurdish political community that emphasized democratic
rights and pluralism instead of secession. The positive import of these devel-
opments was enhanced by Turkey’s attempts in 2003–2004 to meet the EU
membership criteria, which called for democratic consolidation, the rule of
law, respect for human rights, and the protection of minorities.42 The devel-
opments propelled by the EU accession included the lifting of emergency
rule in the southeast, the adoption of certain legal reforms, and the relative
recognition of the Kurds’ cultural rights. Unfortunately these developments
failed to translate into full-fledged liberalization for the Kurds in the end (see
chapter 4 for detailed discussion).

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The Islamist Threat and the Media-Military Coalition
Although the Kurdish issue dominated the public agenda throughout the
1990s, it was not the only threat the military-led state and its allies (i.e., coali-
tion governments, statist middle classes, mainstream media) perceived to be
undermining the Republican principles. In the Kemalist psyche, while the
Kurds imperiled the nationalist order, it was the Islamists who imperiled the
secularist order. This section takes up the attempts to contain the Islamists
on the part of the military-media coalition.
As noted in chapter 1, despite all the efforts to quash religious-conservative
politics in the 1960s and 1970s, Islamic activism survived and indeed strength-
ened. As Joshua Hendrick observes, Islamic activists in Turkey did not “morph
into confrontational, revolutionary variations of religious fervor” but instead
worked to maintain their religious values through political participation (al-
beit limited), charity networks, and religious education. Beginning in the
1980s, the Muslim entrepreneurs’ growing economic power helped fellow
activists to expand their social, cultural and economic organizations and
provided Islamist politicians with remarkable traction in coming decades.43
Additionally, the military’s decision in the early 1980s to use religion as an
antidote to leftist radicalism and to approve the reentry of Islam into the public
sphere had been a boon for Islamist activists. These developments paved the
way for the return of Islamist politicians and the electoral victories of the
Welfare Party (Refah Partisi—RP) in the 1990s, and later of the AKP in 2002.
The RP was established in 1983 by Necmettin Erbakan, a long-time Islamist
politician, and served as the successor to previously banned Islamist parties.
Its unforeseen success in the 1994 local elections (such as in the mayoral
offices of twenty-eight cities, including those in Istanbul and Ankara) and
in the 1995 general elections (21 percent of the national vote and one-third
of the seats in the Parliament) had been due to massive voter mobilization
and networking. The RP had been able to garner the support of the urban
and rural poor by making reform promises to improve their day-to-day liv-
ing.44 The party also canvassed from an anti-Western and anti-EU platform
and successfully rekindled the nationalist discourse in response to certain
international developments.45 The first development was the December 1989
rejection of Turkey’s full membership application by the European Union
(then the European Community), which led to the assumption that the rejec-
tion had been because of Turkey’s Islamic character. The second development
concerned the end of the Cold War; there had been suspicions among Islamist
circles that the West would replace the threat of Communism with that of

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Islam. The third development was the Bosnian conflict that had led Turkish
public opinion to believe that the West was turning a blind eye to the kill-
ings of Muslims. These international developments inflamed anti-Western
feelings (which also suited the Turks’ long-held fears that European powers
had been plotting to divide the country—another manifestation of the Sevres
Syndrome) and helped the RP appeal to the nationalist voter base. The party
also garnered the support of the urban and rural poor thanks to its economic
program titled the “Just Order.” The critique of capitalism and the promise
to reorganize economic life in line with “Islamic ethical norms and social
solidarity” obviously resonated with millions who remained excluded from
the benefits of globalization and economic liberalization.46
The RP’s success in local and general elections caused considerable alarm
among the Kemalist establishment, especially the military, which was only
beginning to recognize that the religious liberties it had granted in the 1980s
were now rapidly opening up administrative positions to Islamist politicians.
These anxieties led to a series of developments that ultimately resulted in the
“postmodern coup” of 1997.

The “Postmodern Coup”

The Kemalist circles’ fears of an Islamist takeover had been brewing since
the early 1990s when the Anatolian bourgeoisie began to challenge the statist
business elites’ control over the economy. This escalated after the 1994 local
elections when RP mayors began to control large budgets and undermine
Kemalist cadres’ hegemony over administrative structures. 47 These fears
reached an apex in 1996 with the installation of Erbakan as prime minister.
The secularist, pro-military press started cautioning readers against the “dark-
ness of Sharia law at our doorstep,” the threats posed by “Quran lessons in
public schools,” and the “Islamic sects.”48 Meanwhile, the mainstream press
was directing attention toward how “distressed” the judiciary and the Na-
tional Security Council were over this ideological shift and started fanning
the flames with their own anti-Islamist rhetoric, publishing a steady stream
of stories that defamed the RP deputies, questioned the legitimacy of the
party’s financial resources, and cautioned public opinion against the coming
of an Islamic republic à la Iran.49
Prime Minister Erbakan’s initiatives seemed to distance him—and the
country—from Europe and to instead reunite him with the Muslim world.
This unwittingly provided fodder for pro-military discourse in the media.
Mainstream news media sounded alarm bells when Erbakan paid official
visits to Libya, Iran, and Nigeria instead of European capitals; when he in-

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vited sheiks of religious orders to his official residence rather than restrict
such visits to mere secular leaders; and when he took on an active role in
the founding of the Developing 8 Group (Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Malaysia) as a Muslim alternative to the
Western G8. In response to Erbakan’s so-called Islamist agenda, the National
Security Council prepared a National Policy Paper identifying the “reac-
tionary forces” of Islam as the greatest threat to the Republic, even more
dangerous and imminent than Kurdish separatists.50 The successive warnings
issued by the military high command found wide and favorable coverage in
mainstream media, both as a cause and consequence of the anti-Erbakan
wave. Mainstream outlets not only refrained from criticizing the military’s
involvement in politics, but they actively supported it. A number of them
(both print and broadcast) served as conduits to relay allegations by the
generals about Islamic infiltration. For example, in June 1996, the General
Staff gave a briefing to prominent journalists and editors about “creeping
Islamism,” which then found favorable coverage the next day with headlines
mimicking the military’s voice: “If Necessary, We Will Resort to Arms” (Hur-
riyet and Cumhuriyet), “Great Danger” and “Guarding [the Republic] with
Arms” (Sabah and Posta), “Final Warning from the Military” (Milliyet and
Yeni Yuzyil), and “Military Ready for Duty” (Cumhuriyet).
In the meantime, op-ed pieces and news coverage became clearly skewed
in favor of the military. For example, Oktay Eksi, the head columnist of the
mainstream Hurriyet, called on his readers to “take action to save the secular
Republic.” He implored: “Do not lose time. . . . There is something you can
do. You must act if you do not want your children to live in [a country like]
Algeria or Afghanistan.”51 Hasan Cemal of Sabah explained why it would
be “impossible to live with this government: Erbakan and the RP are anti-
American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-EU, and anti-NATO. And they are
allies with Iran. They are close to Islamic fundamentalism. They are friends
with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.”52 As tensions between the secular
camp and the RP began to peak, an unnamed member of the military high
command spoke to Hurriyet. Choosing that well-known path of “making a
suggestion” to the public, this unnamed general said: “The society is lethargic.
Everyone is at ease because they think ‘if it gets too bad, the armed forces
will act to resolve it.’ But one cannot expect a political problem to be settled
by the armed forces. The solution should come from civilian forces, MPs
and the Parliament. This time the ‘unarmed’ forces should take care of [the
problem] [referring to radical Islam].”53
The tipping point came on January 30, 1997, when the RP mayor of Sincan,
a small town near the capital, Ankara, organized an event called Jerusalem

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Night. It featured speeches against “the Zionist conspiracy,” called for the
liberation of Jerusalem, and highlighted an address by the ambassador of
Iran. Four days later, Sincan residents woke up to the sight of military tanks
rolling through their town. In a press statement, the General Staff excused
the military procession as a “normal activity.”54 However, a former top general
noted that it had been deliberately designed to “relieve the uneasiness among
officer corps,” sternly adding that “their patience should not be tested.”55 This
symbolic move by the military, one not so subtly hinting at the possibility of a
military takeover, was favorably covered by the press. Hurriyet foregrounded
the military’s voice in its front-page story as it referred to the RP’s never-
ending “agitations,” while Cumhuriyet quoted unnamed military sources at
length: “The armed forces shall continue to emphasize their allegiance to
republican principles. These ‘warnings’ are within the purview of the armed
forces’ constitutional duties.”56
In the meantime, news programs fanned the flames as they broadcast ad
infinitum the footage of rituals of secret Islamist brotherhoods and stories
about the misconduct of a religious sheik who sexually exploited his female
followers. Framing such extreme rituals and corrupt religious leaders as signs
of an imminent attack on the republic, news programs offered images of
Kemalist actors as the “rational, modern, Western and civilized alternative.”57
Nightly news programs were also awash with videos of closed-door meetings
in which Welfare Party members and religious leaders made antisecular,
Islamist remarks or spoke about their longing for a new political order. One
video that especially inflamed the Kemalists featured Fethullah Gulen telling
his adherents to “move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing
their existence until they reach all the power centers” and reminding them to
“be patient and wait until the time is right, otherwise they would be crushed
by the military like in Algeria and Egypt.”58
Following weeks of incendiary statements issued by the high command,
the National Security Council held a historic meeting on February 28, 1997.
At the nine-hour meeting, the General Staff warned Erbakan’s coalition gov-
ernment of the threats posed by radical Islam and demanded that Erbakan
implement a list of eighteen measures to safeguard the secular principles.
These measures were aimed at curtailing Islamic brotherhoods, weakening
religious preacher schools, restraining pro-Islamic businesses, closing pro-
Islamic radio and television channels, and enacting a new law to dismiss
civil servants suspected of Islamist sympathies.59A few days after the NSC
meeting, Erbakan signed the military-imposed document and pledged to
fight Islamism. Under mounting pressure, however, he was forced to resign
from the prime ministry in June 1997. Six months later, in January 1998, the

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Constitutional Court banned the RP on charges of violating its constitutional
obligations—or more specifically, for not observing the principle of secu-
larism. Erbakan and the founding members were now banned from active
politics for five years, and the party’s assets were in turn transferred to the
state treasury.60
The new (and once again pro-secular, pro-military) coalition government
that came to power after Erbakan’s removal swiftly began to enforce the mili-
tary’s policy recommendations. Compulsory elementary education was in-
creased from five to eight years to prevent students from enrolling at preacher
schools at a young age, and restrictions were placed on the graduates of
these schools to limit their prospects of attending university. Strict measures
were imposed to prevent headscarf-wearing women from entering university
campuses and attending classes.61 The General Staff organized briefings for
university professors, media executives, business leaders, and members of
the judiciary to warn about “security threats some Islamic activities posed
for the state,” to promote the military as being the true guardian of the state,
and to mobilize the public to do its share in the fight against Islamism.62
In a move to curtail the economic standing of the conservative Anatolian
bourgeoisie and limit their alleged role in financing Islamist politicians, mili-
tary generals imposed an exclusion of Islamist entrepreneurs from entering
into state bids.63 The military identified close to one hundred companies run
by conservative Muslim entrepreneurs as part of the “reactionary sector.”64
As the General Staff amped up its efforts to weaken these Islamist businesses
(and by extension their Islamist politician counterparts), the daily Milliyet
sounded off with the headline: “Military Embargo: General Staff Urges Not
to Buy Products and Services from Islamist Businesses.”65 Other newspapers
joined in the calls to boycott Islamic companies’ products and published
stories of corruption charges leveled against these companies—all part of
the effort to cut off the financial sources of political Islam.66 According to
the then secretary general of MUSIAD (a business association whose mem-
bership is primarily composed of Islamic enterprises), the media coverage
had been part of “a psychological operation undertaken by the military,
with the message being: ‘Do not conduct business with these companies;
do not give them letters of credit.’”67 Economic pressures were also applied
to Islamist media outlets. The military identified “19 newspapers, 20 televi-
sion stations, 51 radio stations, [and] 10 magazines” as part of reactionary
Islam.68 As per the General Staff ’s call for boycotts, major advertisers pulled
their ads from Islamist newspapers and television stations. The military and
the newly installed government denied newspapers such as Zaman and Yeni
Safak accreditation and thus further marginalized them, while the RTUK

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required Islamist radio and television channels to obtain a National Security
Certificate, which in essence meant clearance by the military.69
Concurrent with these efforts to cleanse Islamists from political, economic,
and media fields, the military tried to mobilize the public and appealed
“directly to organized groups of modernized urban-secular sectors—the
business world, media, academia, public prosecutors, judges, leaders of civil
societal associations.”70 It called on women’s associations, trade unions, Ke-
malist NGOs, business organizations, and the media to “oppose the sharing
of public spaces [of economic activity , politics, education, media] with the
Islamic identity.”71 Comments of journalist Ismet Berkan of Radikal news-
paper sums up how this anti-Islamist campaign worked:
After Erbakan resigned, the military engaged in ‘social engineering’ to
eliminate the possibility of a similar Islamist government coming to power.
This process involved an intense psychological campaign. The military’s
statement “this time the unarmed forces should deal with it” was central
to this campaign. Some NGOs and labor unions took it as a call for duty.
But it was the media who played the biggest role, especially the mainstream
media. If not for the media, the February 28 [coup] would not have been
successful. The media voluntarily took part in this psychological campaign.
[The military] exploited all of us. We let that happen. We are all to blame.72

The following comment made by Dinc Bilgin, former owner of Sabah news-
paper, explains why the military’s “friendly suggestions” carried so much
When the military high command issued a statement, everyone trembled.
The country, with all of its institutions, had lost its balance. A military
general mentioned the army’s duty to guard the republic and the entire
country was scared. Journalists were scared. The DNA of the press corps
was out of whack. The press acted as if it were the opposition party against
the elected government, but did not dare to touch the military or state
officials. The press did not fight against military interventions. It was not
brave. It [chose to] compromise.73

Political Economy of the Media-Military Alliance

To understand the extensive support the mainstream media gave the mili-
tary, be it in its campaign against the Kurds or the Islamists, it is imperative
to explore the political economic underpinnings of this relationship. One
of Turkey’s prominent journalists, Hasan Cemal, proffers this explanation:

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In the 1990s, there were multiple political actors: the military, the elected
government, the opposition parties, and Big Business. The media usually
performed a balancing act among these players, looking out for its financial
interests. If or when it needed to coerce the government to [pass a piece of
favorable legislation], it would seek the support of the military to intimidate
the government. This is why the media never questioned military tutelage
but always supported it.74

Several journalists I interviewed for this study widely reported there having
been a “silent agreement” during the 1990s between the military and the
media—a consequence, perhaps, from the lesson journalists had learned from
the Kurdish conflict. An officer with the General Staff would pay a “visit” to
the Ankara bureau of the newspaper and make a “suggestion” to the bureau
chief, who would then communicate it to the editor or the newspaper’s owner
in Istanbul. Given the military’s informal authority and political weight, the
editor or the owner would already know the parameters of “acceptable” and
“unacceptable” coverage, and these parameters would then trickle down to
the reporters. There were also occasions when the military high command
would directly contact the newspaper owner. Indeed, as a journalist with a
mainstream daily told me,
Oftentimes, we didn’t even need that “courtesy visit” of the “friendly re-
minder” from the General Staff. We just knew where the red lines were.
We knew how to report on the PKK, how to report on Islamists. But every
now and then, there was an incident or unexpected development, and that
was when the General Staff would issue a statement or a press release. Then
we knew that [press release] had to be on the front-page the next day.75

The media-military alliance was not only the result of such direct and
indirect military pressures but also the product of longstanding relation-
ships between media professionals and the political elite. As discussed in
chapter 1, during the early years of the Republic, the founding elite placed
substantial emphasis on national identity and security as well as the duties
and responsibilities of citizens in the safeguarding of Kemalist principles.
Political goals set by the elite permeated media and cultural fields as well
and established specific roles for journalists, publishers, and later radio and
television producers. For many media professionals, the self-identification as
enlightened, Westernized, secularized citizens of the Republic placed them
in a natural alliance with the military-bureaucratic elite. Media profession-
als’ embracing of the official ideology not only led to the marginalization of
religious or pro-Kurdish expression on airwaves and in print; it also muted

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any criticism of the military and generated outright support in most cases.
With the exception of dissenting voices (left-leaning, pro-Kurdish, Islamist
publications) professional norms and standards in the media field came to
be substantiated on common goals and practices that journalists, editors,
and publishers shared with the Kemalist elite.
Another set of relationships between media and the military concerns the
political economic dynamics that had shaped the patron-client relationships
between Ankara (the center of military, judiciary, and bureaucratic power)
and Istanbul (the commercial, cultural, and media capitol) since the early
years of the Republic. It was primarily because of the intricate business rela-
tionships between media conglomerates and the military-led state that the
task of challenging or criticizing the Turkey Armed Forces became a daunt-
ing task for mainstream media. This is how the previously quoted journalist
explained these relationships:
Media bosses could not afford to challenge the establishment in Ankara—
that is, the judiciary and civilian bureaucracy—because these bureaucrats
were the ones to approve their privatization deals, applications for state
tenders, and the like. It was a known fact that the military and state bu-
reaucracy were aligned with each other. They were on the same team, so to
speak. This was the secular establishment that nobody [in the mainstream
press] dared to cross. Media owners were always in search of a “contact”
person in the military or in the high courts, so they could get the heads up,
for example, about an upcoming energy distribution deal.76

As discussed in chapter 1, media companies in the wake of the neoliberal

turn in the 1980s had become integrated into conglomerates that depended
on state bids and privatization deals for their commercial activities in non-
media sectors.
Thus it became common practice among the conglomerates to have a
retired military officer or a high-level bureaucrat as a consultant on the ex-
ecutive board. This was how “big business made sure they had connections
in high places.”77 To shed light on these cozy relationships, it is helpful to
remember the politically supported development of private capital during
the early years of the Republic. As Bugra and Savaskan note, Republican
founders emphasized the creation of a “national bourgeoisie” and supported
a new class of entrepreneurs by “providing initial investment funds, guar-
anteeing safe market outlets in protected economy, and making available
cheap industrial outputs produced by state-owned enterprises.”78 Onis and
Turem also point to how the entrepreneurs, in late industrializing countries
such as Turkey, benefit from “access to state organs” and therefore seek to

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maintain “a stable and predictable macro-environment.” So compelling is the
achievement of this status that it is enticing even if it can only be guaranteed
in an authoritarian setting.79
Another factor underpinning the intricate relations between the military-
led state and media proprietors in the 1990s has to do with the armed forces
being one of the most important economic actors in Turkey. This is not simply
because of the military’s vast budget, which remains immune from civilian
control, but also the infrastructure of “mercantile militarism”—a term that
Taha Parla uses to refer to the “organic integration of military capital with
private capital, both local and foreign, that blurs the line between the private
and the public economy.”80 One manifestation of mercantile militarism is the
OYAK (Armed Forces Trust and Pension Fund) that was established shortly
after the military coup of 1960 to provide mutual trust services for military
officers. These services actually constitute only 20 percent of OYAK’s financial
portfolio; the rest includes subsidiary operations in merchandising, insur-
ance, real estate, stocks and bonds, petroleum refineries, cement and food
processing, and the assembly and import of motor vehicles. Today, OYAK
is the fifth largest corporation in Turkey, with interests in sixty companies,
nearly thirty thousand employees, and fifteen billion dollars in revenue.81
OYAK enjoys subsidies and legal privileges, such as exemptions from cor-
porate, income, sales, and state stamp taxes. It is a business corporation with
its own financial and administrative autonomy and, according to Parla, is
a “para-military business,” a clear manifestation of the coalition of state,
business, and military elites. To illustrate this relationship, Parla reminds us
how newspapers had published celebratory reports after the 1971 coup about
local chambers of commerce and industry giving banquets to honor martial
law officers, and how two prominent captains of commerce and banking had
sat on OYAK’s first board of directors and became founding shareholders in
the first OYAK joint-ventures with Goodyear and Renault.82 Both situations
remain eerily similar to the unholy alliances established between media own-
ers and the military, judiciary, and bureaucracy during the 1990s.

The Turkish Experience and the Global Context

In military-dominated regimes, officers assume the roles of guardian not
simply because of their historical role in the founding of a country, but also
because they seek to preserve the political order that provides significant
benefits to them and their allies. It is when these officers are faced with a
threat to their core interests that they “strip away the [democratic] façade
revealing themselves as the locus of power and reinforcing the authoritarian

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core of the political order.”83 This was the case in Turkey in 1997 when the
military felt threatened by the emerging Islamist political economic order,
more specifically the potential channeling of state resources away from Ke-
malist to Islamic businesses, the infiltration of state apparatus by conservative
religious bureaucrats, and the undermining of secular principles.
In his analysis of authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia, Don Slater
notes that when faced with challenges, the elites (“rang[ing] from captains
of industry to captains in the military”) unite, and assist “heightened state
power” so as to protect their monopoly over political power and economic
resources.84 In response to the contentious politics that they perceive to be
“endemic and unmanageable” under the existing political arrangements, they
establish “protection pacts.” The postmodern coup in Turkey can be under-
stood as the outcome of such a protection pact formed by military officers,
media outlets, and civil and business associations. Given their ideological
affinities and the economic interests they accrued from their relationships
with the military-bureaucratic establishment, large holding companies and
major media outlets did not hesitate to support the postmodern coup and
the military agenda.
To put these developments into a global context, it is useful to map the con-
nections between the Turkish experience and those in other similarly placed
countries such as Egypt and Pakistan, where the military, state bureaucrats,
and economic elites form complex webs of relationships against (the rise
of) alternative political economic actors. As Steven Cook notes, in all three
contexts, the military had established itself as the “guardian of the country
and its dominant ideology: Kemalism in Turkey, Islam in Pakistan, and Arab
nationalism in Egypt.” These militaries drew their sense of responsibility
in part from the fact that they were equipped with the necessary organiza-
tion to implement a new political order and carry out nation-building—in
Turkey’s case, the founding of the republic after the brief Western invasion
of Anatolia, and in Egypt’s and Pakistan’s cases, the independent states after
the departure of colonial powers.85 Despite the fact that they had different
experiences with respect to colonialism, these countries nonetheless put
up an ethno-nationalist resistance against European powers. In their post-
independence years, they experienced—to varying degrees—clashes between
modernization and Islamic traditionalism.86 As Sabri Sayari notes, in each
country, “new formulations of identity came into conflict with religious, eth-
nic and tribal affiliations,” discrediting the modernization theorists’ claims. In
each of these instances the anticipated transition from traditional to modern
society was marked by a surge of ethnic or religious opposition movements,
self-serving alliances between state elites and Islamic opposition, and military
intervention or prolonged military rule.87 Against backgrounds of political

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turmoil, ethnic strife, or military rule, Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan also lived
through authoritarian state forms that denied democratic rights and freedom
of speech in the name of national unity and development.
In Egypt and Turkey, authoritarian regimes used exigencies of national
sovereignty and unity to suppress alternative political ideas and formations,
especially those linked with Islamist movements.88 As discussed in detail in
chapter 1, the founding elites in Turkey disestablished Islam as the state reli-
gion as part of their secularization agenda. In Egypt, Islam was recognized as
the state religion, and army officers took special care to conform to religious
principles; however, the military also made sure to limit the participation of
the Muslim Brotherhood in politics.89 In Pakistan, in the post–civil war era,
political leaders in dire need of forging a national identity declared Islam the
state religion, and later the military portrayed itself as the “caretaker of the
Islamic republic” and aligned itself with certain Islamist groups in response
to developments that made predominant a strict interpretation of Islam.90
Notwithstanding the differences in their approaches toward Islam, the
militaries in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey all portrayed themselves as crucial
actors (perhaps the only actors) capable of undertaking the massive proj-
ects of national development and modernization and also established statist
economic models in which they became significant actors.91 In Egypt, the
military has been directly involved in a wide array of economic activities
including agriculture, real estate, tourism, security, aviation services, con-
sumer goods, light manufacturing, and weapons fabrication.92 In Turkey, the
military is also embedded in the economy thanks to its conglomerate, the
OYAK. In Pakistan, the military has long been a part of the civilian economy
via its vast conglomerate with interests in real estate, cargo, energy, fertilizers,
and cement.93
Beyond the role of the military in a political economic order, one must also
note the attendant authoritarian state forms and their implications on media
systems in each country. As discussed in chapter 1, military and bureaucratic
elites in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey used radio and television broadcasts to
promote certain political goals and instituted strict limitations on the press
under the pretext of national unity and security. While the experiences of
military intrusion or coercion in each country’s media system are differ-
ent, one can nonetheless observe that media proprietors and professionals
in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have often limited or muted criticism of
military officers and worked to embrace a pro-military discourse in order
to maintain their political economic relationships with the centers of power
(see chapter 2). The following chapter examines in detail the persistence of
a state-centric media discourse in Turkey between 2004 and 2007—the time
when the AKP was undertaking a pro-EU and pro-globalization agenda.

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4. The AKP Era
Between the Market and the State

The political economic shifts that had been underway since the
1980s created new opportunities for political actors, specifically the Islamist
AKP, to rise to power. The AKP’s election victory in 2002 and consecutive
wins in 2007 and 2011 created an amenable setting for it to establish its
electoral hegemony and deepen the existing authoritarian neoliberal or-
der. This chapter begins with an analysis of the shifts in global and local
conjunctures that facilitated the AKP’s rise, followed by an overview of its
neoliberal and pro-EU policies during its first term. It then explores how
the anti-Western and anti-globalization currents became substantial ele-
ments of media, politics, and culture in the twenty-first century. Local and
international developments—such as the EU accession process, the relative
easing of restrictions on Kurdish cultural rights, the U.S. invasion of Iraq,
the emergence of a revisionist discourse on the Armenian genocide, and
the entry of foreign media companies into the Turkish market—began to
engender fears and anxieties among the nationalists about the decline of the
Turkish state. Through the lens of these developments, this chapter discusses
the tensions between globalizing and statist dynamics as well as the AKP’s
consolidation of the authoritarian neoliberal order.

The AKP’s Rise to Power and Economic,

Legal Developments
During the 1990s, characterized as the “lost decade” of weak coalition gov-
ernments, Turkey encountered an extremely volatile economy due to high
inflation rates and budget deficits. The collapse of the Southeast Asian and

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Russian markets in 1998 and the earthquake that destroyed Istanbul’s indus-
trial hinterland in 1999 strained the economy even further. The final blow
came in February 2001 when a political dispute broke out between Prime
Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, causing the Cen-
tral Bank to lose one-fifth of its reserves overnight and Turkish lira to be
devalued by 50 percent.1 In the following months, twenty banks collapsed,
nearly a million wage earners lost their jobs, and tens of thousands of small
and medium-sized businesses went bankrupt. In the face of the severity of
the crisis, the IMF provided an emergency loan of 16 billion dollars, and the
coalition government appointed Kemal Dervis, a former vice-president of
the World Bank, as a technocrat to implement IMF-sanctioned structural
reforms of banking and finance systems. The primary aim of these reforms
was to institute proper regulatory frameworks to minimize discretionary
political intervention in the economy, as well as to further privatize state-
owned enterprises, reduce agricultural subsidies, and remove barriers to
foreign direct investment.2
In November 2002, almost a year and a half after the crisis hit, Turkey
held general elections. The winner was the AKP with 34 percent of the votes,
followed by the secularist CHP, which took 19 percent. Not only were the
established political parties, both right and left of the center, ousted from
Parliament, but, for the first time in more than a decade, Turkey came to be
ruled by a single-party government. Founded in August 2001 by the heirs of
the previously banned Welfare Party, the AKP promised the electorate honest
government and economic growth (hence the name of the party: Justice and
Development).3 Under the charismatic leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
the former mayor of Istanbul, the AKP successfully tapped into voter anxi-
ety in the aftermath of the 2001 economic crisis while giving political voice
to the pious Muslims who had suffered from the state’s repressive secular
policies for decades, most recently in the aftermath of the 1997 postmodern
coup. Yet since it did not want to be associated with radical Islam and tried
to avoid any possible confrontation with the Kemalist establishment, the
AKP presented itself as a reform movement and took great care to downplay
its conservative-religious ideology. To assuage fears of an Islamist takeover,
Erdogan said: “We are going to push hard for membership of the E.U. We
don’t plan to disturb anyone’s way of life . . . Islam is a religion, democracy
is a way of ruling. You can’t compare the two. We just want to make people
happier.” To underscore the party’s commitment to the EU bid, which had
always been a central aspect of Turkey’s foreign policy, Erdogan declared,
“We have opened a new page with a new [cadre] and a brand new party. We
were anti-European. Now we are pro-European.”4

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The AKP’s electoral success caused intense disappointment among Kemal-
ist critics, who interpreted the party’s moderate agenda as political expedi-
ency and kept reminding the polity how Erdogan had once said his “reference
is Islam” and had compared democracy to train travel: “when you get to your
station, you get off.”5 In contrast, the AKP’s victory was welcomed by pious
Muslims and liberal intellectuals who looked to Erdogan’s government as a
democratic force that could end the repressive policies of the military-led
establishment. Economists were also in a celebratory mood since the AKP’s
single-party government had the potential to bring about economic stability.6
Political analysts saw the rise of the AKP not merely as a challenge to the
secular regime but as a new version of political Islam that blended religious
conservatism with the economic aspirations of the lower and middle classes.7
Indeed, the AKP defined itself as a “conservative democratic” party, not as
an Islamist one. Unlike its predecessor, the Welfare Party, which had adopted
anti-Western rhetoric, the AKP endeavored to adapt itself to the system.8 Its
pro-Western, pro-EU perspective in politics, and its enthusiastic adoption of
neoliberal ideals in its economic program distinguished it as a representative
of the successful blending of Islam, democracy, and neoliberalism.9
Within the broader context of Islamist movements in the Middle East, the
AKP’s willingness to play by the rules or to adapt itself to the global politi-
cal economic system did indeed stand out.10 In response to the military-led
state’s repressive policies, Islamist activists in Turkey had invested heavily in
grassroots mobilization and horizontal networking since the 1980s. This was
in stark contrast to movements in other predominantly Muslim countries,
such as those in Iran and Algeria. In this sense, the AKP’s election victory was
also an indication of how after each party closure, Islamist politicians became
“more moderate and pragmatic, moved to the mainstream, and embraced
democratic ideals.”11
In addition to its seeming self-adapting to the system, the AKP’s rise to
power was enabled by the increasing economic and political engagement of
the new Muslim bourgeoisie. Having suffered economic pressures applied
by the military in the aftermath of the postmodern coup, pious businessmen
of the Anatolian heartland responded positively to the AKP’s promise of
integration with global capitalism.12 The support these new economic actors
gave the AKP was also prompted by their desire to “get a bigger and better
part of the deal in Ankara” alongside a more general push for “power and
influence in economy and in society.”13
Once in office, the AKP began to implement Dervis’s economic program.
Operating under the mantra of a “strong government” and in the absence of
any viable opposition, the newly elected government initiated the privatiza-

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tion of state-owned enterprises on a massive scale.14 As Bugra and Savaskan
note, though privatization had started back in the 1980s, it did not accelerate
until the AKP came to power. After removing the “potential bureaucratic
obstacles,” the AKP privatized a record number of state-owned enterprises
including the natural monopolies.15 In addition, it created incentives for for-
eign investment and enforced labor laws that favored foreign and domestic
employers.16 The swift and vigorous implementation of the IMF-sanctioned
program yielded results: the inflation rate dropped, the exchange rate of the
Turkish lira stabilized, and economic growth picked up, so much so that
the years 2003–2005 came to be regarded as a period of economic success.17
Thanks to a favorable global environment, Turkey attracted large influxes
of foreign capital, especially from the Gulf states, and grew its economy as
Turkish retailers and construction companies ventured into Middle Eastern
and North African markets.18 But it must be remembered that the relatively
high rates of economic growth were not accompanied by any meaningful job
creation nor a significant decline in unemployment rates. Economic growth
mostly depended on consumer spending and the construction boom, but
did not generate any investment in high-tech manufacturing and services.19
In the political domain, the AKP actively pursued a pro-EU agenda and
passed a series of harmonization packages (that is, amendments to the Con-
stitution, Penal Code, and other existing laws). These packages extended
freedom of expression, religion, association, and assembly (on paper at least),
enhanced the right to a free trial, abolished the death penalty, restricted party
closures, abolished State Security Courts, and loosened restrictions on the
use of the Kurdish language in broadcasting.20 Perhaps the most significant
reforms were those that curbed the military’s role in politics by amending the
organizational structure and the political function of the National Security
Council (NSC) so that it would be led by a civilian, not a military general,
meet less frequently, and no longer oblige the elected government to give
top priority to its recommendations.21
In 2004, upon the passage of harmonization packages, the European Coun-
cil decided that Turkey had met its criteria, and in 2005 it began accession
talks. Both developments were celebrated by mainstream media while reports
on the AKP government’s economic and legal reforms painted a rosy picture
for the country’s future as a member of the EU with a growing economy
and expanding democratic rights. However, the EU reforms were met with
palpable resistance from nationalists, secularists, and pro-military circles
because they considered the curbing of the military’s role in politics and
the recognition of ethnic minority rights to be major threats to national
sovereignty and unity.22 In an ironic twist, the military and the Kemalist

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political elite, who had always followed “Ataturk’s prescription to join the
European club,” had now become opponents of EU membership, for they
believed membership involved recognizing (if not enhancing) the rights
of ethnic (read: Kurdish) minorities and limiting the role of the NSC, thus
opening the door to Kurdish secession or radical Islam.23 Opponents were
also skeptical of the AKP’s sincerity, thinking that Erdogan was playing the
EU card to carry out his anti-Kemalist policies and Islamicize the society.24
If the AKP’s first term is associated with change (economic growth, EU
harmonization, efforts to demilitarize the political field), it is equally marked
with continuity (enduring legacies of nationalism and state-centricism). As I
show in following sections, the upsurge of nationalist and statist sentiments,
propelled by local and global developments, was manifest in the generation of
books, films, and advertisements that glorified Turks’ (continuing) struggle
against imperialist forces; the media hate campaigns against individuals who
had dared to express their non-Turkish identity; the prosecution of writers
and intellectuals who were questioning the official historical narrative; the
suppression of Kurdish media; and the construction of policies that have
enabled economic liberalization but undercut the development of a demo-
cratic, pluralist, and diverse media system.

Nationalist, Statist Currents in Cultural Production

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, the U.S policy in the Middle East
and especially its invasion of Iraq had caused a palpable increase in anti-
American sentiments in Turkey and in the Muslim world. According to a
2003 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, 60 percent of Turks believed the U.S.-
led war in Iraq had been part of a broader American assault on unfriendly
Muslim nations, with 71 percent saying the U.S might one day threaten their
country, too.25 As the United States was finalizing its plans to invade Iraq,
it had asked Turkey to allow the U.S military the use of Turkish air space
and territory. On March 1, 2003, the Turkish Parliament responded to the
request by rejecting a bill that would have allowed military cooperation be-
tween the two countries. The refusal, which had been propelled by a massive
antiwar mobilization by Turkish NGOs, strained the relations between the
two NATO allies.
The tensions further escalated on July 4, 2003, when U.S soldiers took into
custody eleven Turkish special forces officers, based on the intelligence that
they were going to assassinate a local Kurdish politician in Northern Iraq. The
Turkish soldiers were then hooded and detained.26 This “hooding incident,”
as it was dubbed by the Turkish media, caused widespread anger among

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Turks, as it was seen as a humiliation for the Turkish military and nation.
The chief of staff called the imperative of responding to the incident “a matter
of national honor”; this was reinforced by demonstrators at anti-American
protests in Istanbul and Ankara who chanted “America out” and “We will
not be America’s servants,” and by newspaper headlines that accused U.S
soldiers of being “ugly Americans” and “Rambos.”27 In the aftermath of the
hooding incident, the anti-American sentiment persisted and was expressed
in several media forms ranging from books and films to advertisements. As
Ioannis Grigoriadis notes, the book Metal Firtina (“Metal storm”), published
in 2004, centered on a fictional U.S. invasion of Turkey done for the purpose
of expropriating Turkey’s energy sources and then divvying them up among
Greeks, Armenians, and Kurds. Defined as a “futuristic political fiction” by its
authors, the text blended pure invention with references to real names such
as Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Obviously resonating with Turks’
long-held fears about the dissolution of their state, the book sold more than
500,000 copies, with ten editions coming out between 2004 and 2006 alone.28
Another popular book that appealed to the nationalist sentiment was Su
Cilgin Turkler (“Those crazy Turks”), published in 2005. Defined as “historical
documentary” by its author, Turgut Ozakman, it told the story of Turkey’s
War of Independence (1919–1922) as led by Mustafa Kemal against the West-
ern occupiers from England, France, Italy, and Greece. In more than seven
hundred pages, the book weaved in fictional stories of patriotism, bravery,
and self-sacrifice with the factual narrative of the war. Selling more than
700,000 copies (with possibly an equal or higher number of illegal copies),
Su Cilgin Turkler topped the bestseller lists for months and brought Ozak-
man several awards.29 In an interview, Ozakman conjured up similarities
between the Western invasion of Anatolia after WWI and the present-day
pressures from the EU, and he urged Turks to stand tall: “If the poor Turkey
[of the 1920s] achieved victory, then Turkey today must do more. Turkey is
more experienced today. A nation is awakening. We must not bow under
pressure; we must get rid of this sense of inferiority. The burial robe that [the
Europeans] saw fit for us back then . . . they want to put it on us now.”30
This anti-Western, anti-imperialist sentiment was evident in another cul-
tural text—the 2006 film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq. Based on the highly popu-
lar television series Valley of the Wolves, the film told the story of Polat Alem-
dar, a Turkish intelligence agent, who travels to Iraq in order to avenge the
aforementioned hooding incident and restore the Turkish military’s honor.
Mixing documentary-style remakes of or references to real-life events such
as the bombing of a wedding by U.S. troops in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison
torture, and the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the film served to glorify the (con-

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tested) legacy of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East while portraying
Americans and Jews as bloodthirsty and Turks as righteous.31 Drawing record
numbers of viewers to theaters, the film successfully exploited the growing
suspicions of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the new wave of nationalism in
Turkey. But because of its anti-American and anti-Semitic content, it had
also created its own international controversy and was pulled from theaters
in Germany by the country’s largest multiplex chain in response to protests
by the Jewish community and by politicians who warned that the film could
radicalize the Turkish immigrant youth in Europe.32
In the meantime, the nationalist upsurge continued to swell, this time
in an advertising campaign for Cola Turka, a soft drink launched in 2003
by a leading Turkish confectioner to compete with Coca Cola and Pepsi.
Coincidentally rolled out a day after the hooding incident, the campaign
featured Chevy Chase as an American character who came to adopt Turkish
customs and traditions. The first series of commercials focused on the theme
of Turkification, while the second series glorified the success of a Turkish
soccer player and a graphic designer, both of whom had achieved global
success in their respective fields. Another commercial featured an American
soldier in the desert walking away from fighting the war upon drinking Cola
Turka.33 The campaign was charged with anti-Americanism, but the local
Young&Rubicam agency in Istanbul who launched the campaign said they
used the idea of “positive nationalism,” and thus pitched it as if implying that
“those who drink Cola Turka will aspire to be Turkish and will also adopt
Turkish cultural features.”34

Nationalist Onslaught against Non-Muslim,

Non-Turkish Actors
Troubling developments concurrent with the rising nationalist or anti-Amer-
ican sentiment were the attacks on Christians living in Turkey. In 2006, two
friars were assaulted and two priests were stabbed to death. In 2007, three
individuals (two Turkish converts to Christianity and a German mission-
ary) working for a Christian publishing house were tortured and slain. In
all cases, the suspects said they committed the murders because they were
fearful that the Christian missionaries had been making plans to divide the
country.35 Law enforcement and government officials claimed these were
isolated incidents, yet public opinion surveys at the time reflected high levels
of negative attitudes toward both Christians and Jews. According to a 2004
Pew Global Attitudes survey, about 50 percent of Turks had an unfavorable

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opinion of Christians and Jews; by 2008, these numbers had risen to ap-
proximately 75 percent.36
Perhaps the most harrowing manifestation of the nationalist upsurge trans-
pired in the hate campaign against Hrant Dink, the editor of the Armenian-
Turkish weekly Agos. From 2004 until his assassination by an ultranationalist
in 2007, Dink was systematically subjected to hate speech because of his
writings on the Armenian genocide.37 This was also the period when a grow-
ing number of academics, intellectuals, and artists in Turkey had begun to
discuss the genocide and produced a number of revisionist works, which,
needless to say, infuriated the nationalist circles.38 In 2004, Dink wrote in
his column the possibility that thousands of Armenians might have been
Islamicized or Turkified during and after the genocide. Basing the column
on an Armenian woman’s statement, Dink highlighted the case of Sabiha
Gokcen, Turkey’s first female fighter pilot and Ataturk’s adopted daughter, and
suggested that Gokcen might have been of Armenian ancestry. Two weeks
later, the mainstream Hurriyet published a front-page report on the Gokcen
story, which was then picked up by other news outlets and ultimately led
to widespread media coverage of Dink’s original column.39 As speculations
around Gokcen’s ethnic identity abounded (was she Turkish, Armenian,
or maybe Bosnian?), journalists and columnists from a wide spectrum of
newspapers—mainstream, nationalist, leftist, and Islamist—penned racist
and insulting comments about Dink. In the meantime, the Turkish General
Staff issued a statement criticizing the news reports regarding Gokcen’s ethnic
origin, calling them an “unfounded and unfair campaign against Ataturk
nationalism” and “a claim that abuses our national values and feelings.”40 A
few weeks later, Dink made a call for reconciliation between Turks and Ar-
menians in his column. He urged Armenians to put aside their “poisonous
obsession with Turks and the genocide” and instead try to develop a positive
identity. Taken out of context, however, Dink’s words were used to accuse
him of calling Turks “poisonous” and led to his prosecution under Article
301 of the Penal Code.
Introduced in 2005, Article 301 criminalized the “denigration of Turkish-
ness” and stated: “Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the
Grand National Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of
between six months and three years. Public denigration of the Government
of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military
or security structures shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six
months and two years. In cases where denigration of Turkishness is commit-
ted by a Turkish citizen in another country the punishment shall be increased

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by one third. Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute
a crime.”41 At the court proceedings, Dink was physically and verbally as-
saulted by nationalist groups, while in the media he was referred to as an
agitator and a traitor who had insulted Turkish national identity. Dink was
sentenced to six months in prison, but later the sentence was suspended on
the condition that he would not commit a similar offense.
According to Kemal Goktas’s detailed analysis of the prevailing discourse at
the time, media outlets, regardless of their ideological orientations (national-
ist right, nationalist left, conservative, or Islamist) had united against Dink
and by extension the Armenian minority. Columns and headlines not only
expressed hatred (“Look at That Armenian”) but openly threatened Dink and
the intellectuals who stood by him (“Agos Cannot Upset Our Order,” “They
Will Be Accountable to Turkish Justice,” “Agos Will Be Muted,” “Kick Them
Out,” “Hrant Dink, Pack and Leave,” “Love It or Leave It”). Goktas also found
that only a few columnists in the mainstream press had criticized the absurdity
of the court case at all—yet even when those few did so, they tended to focus
more on how this episode posed a risk to Turkey’s EU membership prospects
rather than on the moral injustice being directed against Dink himself.42
Dink was not the only one charged with “insulting Turkishness” as per
Article 301. Prompted by complaints filed by a nationalist group, prosecutors
brought charges against several intellectuals, writers, journalists, and human
rights activists.43 Among them was Orhan Pamuk, the renowned Turkish
writer and Nobel laureate, who was indicted for saying in an interview he
gave to a Swiss paper, “Thirty-thousand Kurds and a million Armenians
were murdered. Hardly anyone dares mention it, so I do.”44 During the court
proceedings, Pamuk was assaulted, egged, and called a “traitor” by the mem-
bers of the Nationalist Action Party.45 In 2006, another prominent Turkish
novelist, Elif Safak, faced criminal charges for creating a fictional character
in her novel who refers to the deaths of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.46 In
both cases, the writers were later acquitted, though not on substance but
rather on technicalities.
The nationalist mobilization against Dink, Pamuk, Safak, and other dis-
senting individuals was led by Kemal Kerincsiz, a lawyer and the leader of
the Great Union of Jurists (Buyuk Hukukcular Birligi). Kerincsiz and his
associates successfully exploited Article 301 and filed complaints against
intellectuals, writers, and journalists who were expressing their opposition to
the official state narratives. They also tried to prevent an academic conference
on Ottoman Armenians, arguing that the conference was “unscientific” in
nature and that its real aim was to push Turkey into chaos and to partition
it to create Kurdistan and a greater Armenia.47 The conference was held in a

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different venue than originally planned, but still the participants were heckled
by protestors; historians, academics, and other speakers were later portrayed
in the media as Turkey’s “enemies within.”48

Suppression of Kurdish Media

The preponderance of statism and nationalism can also be observed through
the suppression of Kurdish media and cultural rights. Between 2002 and
2004, as discussed above, the AKP-led Parliament introduced some changes
to the legal framework to improve Kurdish cultural rights––albeit with some
caveats. In 2002, the ban on Kurdish education was lifted, but only on the
condition that doing so would not threaten the indivisible integrity of the
state and would be permitted only in private language schools. That year,
private Kurdish language instruction courses were opened in Istanbul and in
a handful of southeastern cities, yet, officials delayed the courses by raising
bureaucratic obstacles and thus rendered the democratization efforts on paper
only.49 For nationalists (Kemalist, right-wing, or ultra-), the removal of legal
barriers to the use of Kurdish language represented a direct threat to national
unity and territorial integrity. In the mainstream media, the EU’s calls for
Kurdish education were portrayed as offensive and divisive to the country.50
Another area where the improvement of Kurds’ cultural rights failed to
translate into real progress was broadcasting. In 2004, the AKP-led Par-
liament started allowing broadcasting in languages other than Turkish to
comply with the EU harmonization requirements. Shortly after, the state-run
TRT began to broadcast in Bosnian, Arabic, Circassian, and two Kurdish
dialects, Kurmanji and Zaza, on one radio and one television channel. These
broadcasts, however, were (and still are) limited in terms of both duration
and scope. For television, the broadcast transmission period cannot exceed
forty-five minutes daily and a total of four hours a week, and for radio, the
periods cannot exceed sixty minutes a day and five hours a week.51
In 2008, the Parliament passed another law enabling the TRT to launch a
twenty-four-hour channel to broadcast in Kurdish. In 2009, Prime Minister
Erdogan formally inaugurated the TRT 6 (or Ses in Kurdish)—a move that
had been packaged by the AKP as part of its “Kurdish opening.” Others,
however, considered TRT 6 to be a political ploy by the AKP meant to lure
Kurdish votes in the southeastern provinces ahead of the local elections.
For their part, Kurds mostly found the new channel to be “a deceptive move
to assimilate [them],” since most of the programming reflected the Turk-
ish state’s views more than their own.52 According to critics, TRT 6 was the
Turkish state’s response to the Kurdish satellite television channels it had so

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far failed to suppress (see chapter 3). A survey conducted in 2015 found that
some Kurdish viewers considered the channel (renamed TRT Kurdi in 2015)
to be an important step toward the recognition of Kurdish rights, while oth-
ers criticized the channel (and by extension the AKP government) for the
absence of full liberalization of Kurdish language and culture.53
Supression of Kurdish rights continued in other fields as well. Beginning
in late 2009 and intensifying in 2011, thousands of Kurdish politicians, may-
ors, journalists, academics, and trade union and human rights activists were
rounded up in mass arrests and charged with links to the KCK—the Union of
Kurdistan Communities, a body affiliated with the PKK. By the end of 2011,
the number of arrests had reached an astounding four thousand.54 As part of
the KCK operation, the police targeted the offices of the pro-Kurdish news
outlets and arrested thirty-six journalists and editors on charges of KCK and
PKK membership and dissemination of terrorist propaganda.55 According to
the report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), these journalists
were accused under the Anti-Terror Law of “committing a crime on behalf
of a terrorist organization” (Article 2), “announcing the crimes of terror-
ist organizations, disclosing the identity of anti-terror officials, identifying
these persons as targets, printing or publishing leaflets and declarations of
terrorist organizations” (Article 6), and “making propaganda for a terror-
ist organization” (Article 7). Accusations were also based on Penal Code
Article 216, which penalizes those who “incite sections of the population
to enmity or hatred toward another group on the basis of social class, race,
religion, or sectarian difference, in a manner which may present a clear and
imminent danger in terms of public safety,” and on other provisions that
criminalize “committing a crime on behalf of an organization,” “aiding and
abetting an organization knowingly and willingly,” “making propaganda for
an organization and its objectives,” “attempting to change the constitutional
order by force,” and “being a member of an organization.”56 Because of the
vague language of these provisions, Kurdish journalists’ support for Kurdish
ethnic rights, their criticism of the actions of the Turkish military, references
to PKK leadership in their reports, and even basic news-gathering activities
were considered acts of terrorism.57
The policy changes that led to the removal of the bans on Kurdish edu-
cation and broadcasting were prompted by pressures from the EU, but as
noted above, most of these changes remained only on paper and failed to
improve Kurdish cultural rights. Today, Kurdish education is still restricted
to private schools, and Kurdish broadcasting continues to be hampered by
bureaucratic obstacles. The majority of journalists, editors, and publishers
who are behind bars are those who work at Kurdish publications. The ban

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on Kurdish broadcasting was removed in 2004, yet there is still no Kurdish
commercial radio or television channel that operates at the national level.58

Nationalist and Statist Dynamics in Media Policy

Nationalist and statist impulses not only shaped cultural production and
perpetuated the suppression of Kurdish media, but they also defined much
of the AKP’s media policies regarding ownership and regulation. As noted
earlier, the economic crisis of 2001 had led to the collapse of several banks.
In the aftermath of the crisis, the newly established Bank Regulatory and
Supervisory Agency (BDDK) had revoked licenses of dozens of banks, which
brought down these banks’ parent conglomerates as well. The bankrupt con-
glomerates and their assets, including major newspapers and television and
radio outlets, were then taken into receivership by another new state agency,
the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), to be sold off in return for
their debts.59 From the time of their confiscation until their resale, these
media assets remained in the hands of the TMSF, making it one of the larg-
est media owners in the country. Between 2002 and 2006, the TMSF, which
was attached to the office of the prime minister, had under its control three
major dailies, three national television channels, and several radio stations.60
These assets whetted the appetites of not only the local media companies
but also foreign investors who were hoping to get a share of Turkey’s growing
media market. Encouraged by the AKP’s pro-market and pro-EU policies,
foreign players took part in the TMSF-managed sell-off and acquired radio
and television stations. Among them was CanWest, a Canadian company,
which in 2005 bought shares of leading radio stations Super FM and Metro
FM (which had formerly been owned by Uzan Holding). Despite the provi-
sion in the Broadcasting Law that was supposed to bar a foreign investor
from holding shares in more than one broadcasting company, CanWest had
been able to bypass this restriction because of its joint venture with a local
company. Another foreign entrant was Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, which
acquired TGRT (a mildly conservative television station, formerly owned by
Ihlas Holding) in 2006 and a year later had repackaged it as an entertainment
channel under the Fox brand. Other foreign investors who entered the market
in 2006 included the German media giant Axel Springer, which bought 25
percent of Dogan Media’s shares, and Providence Equity Partners, which
bought 47 percent of Digiturk (a company notable for creating Turkey’s first
digital television platform).
The AKP government, as per its economic agenda, was keen on opening
the media market to foreign investors and signaled its intent to revise the

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broadcasting law and ease restrictions on foreign ownership as part of its
commitment to EU harmonization.61 Indeed, a senior adviser to Prime Min-
ister Erdogan described the dominating position of the (local) media owners
as “a disgraceful situation” and the existing relationships between media
proprietors and politicians as “unhealthy.”62 It was necessary, the government
argued, to diversify ownership and increase competition in the market; the
TMSF-managed sell-off and the new broadcasting law were seen as helping
to achieve that.
To this end, an AKP-led Parliamentary commission drafted a proposal
to lift the 25 percent limit on foreign ownership and enable foreign entities
to hold as much as 100 percent of the shares of a broadcast enterprise. For-
eign investors, however, would be able to hold shares in only one national
broadcast enterprise and would be barred from participating in any local
or regional broadcasting. In addition, the number of foreign-owned outlets
would be prevented from exceeding 25 percent of the total number of outlets
in the market.63 As Burcu Sumer notes, the then deputy prime minister Abd-
ullatif Sener defended the proposal, asserting that foreign capital would bring
competition to the media industry, and assured reluctant lawmakers that
foreign-owned channels would be subject to Turkish law and be monitored
by the RTUK. However, the proposal still attracted severe criticism from the
CHP, the main opposition party, and even from a number of AKP MP’s, both
sets of objectors being concerned with the implications foreign ownership
could have on national identity and unity. The Kemalist-nationalist CHP
argued that a foreign investor, if allowed to hold an entire ownership of a
television channel, would likely show no regard for “our national sensitivities”
and might even undertake separatist activities.64 Fears surrounding the integ-
rity of the Turkish nation-state were also evident in an AKP MP’s statement:
“[Foreign-owned channels] may not be so dangerous for the first couple
of years. But sooner or later they may be overtaken by reactionary groups,
Armenians or ethnic [in reference to Kurds] groups. How much revenue do
we expect from these sales anyways? Are we really so destitute? How can you
[referring to his AKP colleagues] claim to be conservative without protecting
your national values? So you want to handover [the television channels] to
Americans, the French and the German? If they want to invest in Turkey,
they may come and make soft drinks. But we cannot let them [make] ideas.
We have a responsibility to our grandchildren.”65
Despite the opposition and the populist rhetoric, the Parliament passed
the proposal, but it was then vetoed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who
was concerned with the potential of foreign capital to undermine Turkish
unity. Sezer noted in his dissent that opening the broadcasting market would

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“expose Turkey’s cultural life, democracy, national interests, public order and
safety to foreigners’ influence.”66 Faced with the presidential veto, the AKP
withdrew the proposed changes and maintained the existing 25 percent limit
on foreign ownership. This, however, should not be taken to mean that the
AKP had given up on its deregulatory agenda. In 2011, it was able to easily
amend the Broadcasting Law thanks to its parliamentary majority and the
absence of a veto from the new president, Abdullah Gul, who had been one
of the AKP’s founding fathers.
The objective of the 2011 Broadcasting Law (Law No. 6112) was to harmo-
nize the legal framework with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Although the amended version appeared to be in harmony with the EU
Directive in terms of its defined scope, access, and regulation of commercial
broadcasting, it addressed broadcasting entirely as a commercial enterprise.
As Burcu Sumer and Gulseren Adakli note in their report, the new law main-
tained the prohibition on unions, nonprofit organizations, or universities
from broadcasting and thus prevented the potential creation of a pluralistic,
diverse media field. It also failed to address ownership issues, monopolies,
and concentration and continued to relegate to the RTUK the role of a censor-
ship and monitoring entity rather than tasking it with market regulation. In
terms of ownership restrictions, it maintained that while “the same company
can only provide one radio, one television and one on-demand broadcast
service,” the number of companies in which a person or a legal entity could
hold shares would increase from two to four. It also raised the “total direct
foreign capital in a media company” from 25 percent to 50 percent.67
Article 7 was one of the more highly contested articles of this new law. It
was concerned with the question of “broadcasting during times of crises” and
gave the prime minister the authority to impose a temporary ban on radio
and television broadcasts in case “wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters
and similar extraordinary situations” might put national security and public
order at risk. In addition to this ambiguous provision, the law introduced
other potential restrictions on freedom of speech, as Adakli and Sumer note
in their report.68 Several articles, for example, stipulated that media services
shall not “violate the existence and independence of the State of the Republic
of Turkey, the indivisible integrity of the State with its country and nation,
or the revolutions and principles of Ataturk,” or “inflame society to hatred
and hostility,” “praise or encourage terrorism, depict terrorist organizations
as powerful or rightful,” “be contrary to the national and moral values of the
society, general morality and the principle of family protection,” or “impair
the physical, mental, or moral development of young people.” In case of a
violation, broadcast enterprises were to be subject to administrative fines, the

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suspension of their broadcasting for up to ten days, and the cancellation of
the broadcaster’s license (in cases where they repeated the same offense). In
sum, the new Broadcasting Law simultaneously entrenched market principles
and maintained the age-old restrictions on free speech (and even introduced
more severe ones, as in Article 7).

As seen through the lens of media-related developments, the period be-
tween 2002 and 2010 were marked by change and continuity: new laws were
introduced to reform state-society relations but were not effectively put in
practice, pro-EU policies were met with nationalist resistance, and the AKP’s
democratization agenda was articulated with authoritarian statist impulses.
To better understand the paradoxical nature of these developments, it is use-
ful to highlight David Harvey’s notion of the dialectic tension between the
“logic of the market” and the “logic of territory,” which Gholam Khiabany
uses in his analysis of the Iranian media. According to Khiabany, the Iranian
state has been caught between the need to maintain its ideological hegemony
and its very own modernization, development, and economic liberaliza-
tion agenda and the “straightjacket of Islamism” and the “pragmatism and
the imperative of the market.” This tension, in the field of broadcasting for
example, has pushed the Iranian state to “seek to expand and privatize the
sector but remain fearful of private capital and private television channels”
at the same time.69
In Turkey, similar tensions played out between pro-globalization and pro-
market movements and the nationalist and statist countermovements, as
discussed above. Although there are admittedly contextual dissimilarities
between the Turkish and the Iranian experiences, the red thread that runs
through them both is the articulation of economic liberalism with central-
ized state authority. In Turkey, the nationalist reaction to the EU reforms,
the resistance against the opening of the broadcasting market to foreign
capital, and the backlash against the expansion of Kurdish cultural rights
were intricately tied with the AKP government’s (ambiguous) liberalization
agenda, both political and economic.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, the statist and nationalist
ethos continued to dominate politics, culture, and media despite the AKP’s
reforms—or perhaps this ethos reemerged as an indomitable force because
of those reforms. The economic liberalization program opened Turkish mar-
kets to greater capital flows and integrated them with global networks (for
better or worse), while the EU accession negotiations paved the way to legal

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reforms that promised to transform state-society relationships and at the
same time threatened to dismantle the central authority of the military-
bureaucratic state establishment. The AKP, caught up in a predicament for
various reasons (it needed to appeal to the nationalist voter base, maintain
control over the economy for purposes of rent-seeking, exploit the “Kurdish
opening” in domestic and foreign policy matters, etc.), opted to condition
liberal principles with authoritarian statism. It portrayed itself as a carrier of
democratic change, yet it consolidated the antidemocratic attributes of the
very state it had initially promised to reform.
Despite these contradictions, the period between 2002 and 2007 was rela-
tively quiet in terms of the AKP’s relations with mainstream and Kemalist,
secular-leaning media outlets. As discussed above, with the exception of a
number of cases emanating from EU-led reforms and their so-called nega-
tive implications on national unity, the relations between the government
and the press were not particularly troublesome, at least not as hostile and
intimidating as they would become later in the decade. The following chapter
examines these shifts.

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5. The Remaking of the
Media-Military-State Relationships
in the Early Twenty-First Century

The 2001 economic crisis had a domino effect on the media in-
dustry. Following the collapse of several banks, the TMSF took over their
media assets and auctioned them off—a process that led to the elimination
of major media conglomerates (Bilgin, Uzan, and Ihlas) and facilitated the
entry of new players, both foreign (CanWest and NewsCorp) and domestic
(Dogus, Ciner). By 2008–2010, this transformation deepened further with the
emergence or strengthening of AKP-friendly media companies (Calik, Feza,
Samanyolu, and Ipek-Koza) and a consequent upsurge in partisanship. In
addition to the reshuffling of media ownership structures and the realignment
of patron-client relationships, 2008–2010 also witnessed the legal hounding
of journalists charged with coup attempts and terrorist propaganda during
major political investigations such as those of Ergenekon and the KCK. As
I explain in further detail in coming sections, the Ergenekon investigation
charged more than a dozen journalists with conspiring with the military to
overthrow the AKP government, while the KCK operation targeted Kurdish
journalists and accused them of helping to promulgate terrorist propaganda.
Needless to say, these two probes struck further blows against press freedoms
and intensified the existing political economic pressures on media owners
and professionals alike.
This chapter explores specific economic, political, and legal developments
in 2005–2013 and their repercussions on media ownership structures, free-
doms of press and communications, and media-military relationships.1 It
discusses the cultivation of the partisan media bloc, financial and legal pres-
sures on mainstream media, the antimilitary campaign carried out by Gulen-
affiliated outlets and the politicization of press freedom issues.

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The Reshuffling of Media Ownership Structures
Following the 2001 economic crisis and the ensuing collapse of financially-
troubled banks, the TMSF took over the banks’ media assets and started
what would become a contentious process of repackaging and auctioning. By
2005–2006, the bankrupt media companies were ready to be auctioned off,
thus creating fierce competition between media moguls hoping to strengthen
their existing positions and business tycoons eager to enter the media field.
At stake was not merely the ownership of major newspapers and television
and radio stations; the prospect of political and economic influence in An-
kara was on the line as well. Dogan Holding, which had survived the 2001
economic crisis relatively unscathed, was among those jockeying to snatch
up the major newspapers and television channels from the TMSF auctions.
Its media unit, Dogan Media, had initially felt the brunt of the crisis when
the national advertising market shrank from US$1 billion to US$500 million,
which forced Dogan Media to lay off almost 1,000 personnel (out of 5,300).2
Nevertheless it would be this same economic crisis that became the perfect
excuse for Dogan Media to force its remaining workers to relinquish their
union membership if they wanted to keep their jobs.3 Concurrent with its
efforts to dismantle the unionized workforce, the company had also aimed to
circumvent ownership restrictions as the TMSF auctions approached. Aydin
Dogan, the head of the conglomerate, began to lobby personally for loosen-
ing ownership limits. According to his logic, unrestricted ownership would
give media companies the financial freedom that could then translate into
transparency, consumer choice, and press freedom.4 Although at the time
Dogan would fail to convince Parliament to lift ownership restrictions, one
of his subsidiary companies was nonetheless able to exploit a legal loophole
and acquire Star TV at the TMSF sell-off. The adding of Star TV to its ros-
ter of existing television channels (Kanal D and CNN Turk) signaled that
Dogan Media had been able to consolidate its dominant position in the field
of broadcasting.
In the meantime, TMSF auctions paved the way for new players. Dogus
Holding, which had major business interests in banking and the automotive
industry but in terms of media had operated only in the magazine publish-
ing sector, acquired two television channels from the TMSF. One was NTV,
Turkey’s oldest and most respectable news channel. The other, Kanal E, was
a less prominent channel, which Dogus later turned into CNBC-e as result
of its joint venture with the U.S-based CNBC.5
Another new entrant was Ciner Holding, which had existing business in-
terests in energy and transportation. In 2005, Ciner bought Sabah/ATV, a

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joint television-newspaper outlet and the second-largest media conglomerate
at the time. However, in 2007 Ciner lost ownership of Sabah/ATV when the
TMSF seized it based on criminal charges surrounding the earlier sale. Un-
deterred, Ciner rebuilt its media arm by launching the HaberTurk television-
newspaper venture that same year. Other new media entrepreneurs included
the AKP-friendly Calik, Ipek-Koza, and Sancak groups. Ipek-Koza acquired
Bugun newspaper in 2005 and then KanalTurk news channel in 2008.6 Sancak
acquired the daily Star and launched Kanal 24 in 2007.7 In an interview in
2008, Ethem Sancak, the company owner, professed his adulation for Erdo-
gan and said that the only reason he had entered the media business was to
support the AKP government.8 Perhaps the biggest media acquisition by a
pro-AKP business was made by Calik Holding in 2011 when it bought Sabah/
ATV, Turkey’s second-largest newspaper-television venture. The allegations
that the AKP had been behind the change of ownership bid found support
in the fact that the TMSF had been attached to the office of Prime Minister
Erdogan, that Calik Holding had been the only bidder in the state-run auc-
tion, that Erdogan’s son-in-law was at the time the CEO of the company, and
that the sale had been financed by two state-owned Turkish banks.9
The TMSF’s confiscation and sale of financially troubled media enterprises
to AKP cronies continued well into the party’s third term.10 In 2013, the TMSF
took over the Aksam newspaper and the Show TV and SkyTurk channels,
citing the debts of their owner, Cukurova Group. Following the takeover, the
TMSF replaced Aksam’s editor-in-chief with a former AKP deputy, laid off
journalists who had been critical of the government, and hired new journal-
ists certifiably sympathetic to Erdogan. Once the TMSF had “repackaged
[these outlets] to the liking of the AKP,” to cite a journalist I interviewed, it
sold Aksam directly (without a tender) to a pro-AKP business consortium,
and Show TV to Ciner Holding.
The channeling of state advertising to sympathetic outlets also played a
crucial role in the cultivation of pro-AKP media. According to a report issued
by the Court of Accounts, the state-owned Halkbank, for example, directed
the lion’s share of its advertising expenditure in 2012 to Star newspaper and
Kanal 24 news channel and granted sponsorship deals worth millions of liras
to these outlets.11 Nielsen’s AdEx report also revealed that in the first half of
2014, the top three newspapers (out of a total of eighteen) that received the
most advertising from state-owned companies were Sabah, Star, and Milliyet,
known for their pro-AKP stance.12
The AKP’s efforts to foster a loyal bloc of media were not limited to the
instrumentalization of the TMSF or the channeling of state advertising to
friendly media outlets. By handing out government contracts and cheap cred-

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its via the state-owned banks, the AKP also helped certain media companies
prosper, especially those owned by its political ally at the time, the Gulen
community. As noted in chapters 1 and 2, Gulenist businessmen had owned
newspapers and periodicals since the 1980s and had entered the television
and radio sectors in the 1990s. Having survived the political and economic
pressures they had endured before, during, and in the aftermath of the 1997
postmodern coup, the Gulen-affiliated media companies, Feza and Saman-
yolu, flourished during the AKP’s tenure. From 2006 onward, the two sister
companies expanded their media holdings considerably, with Feza launch-
ing Irmak TV and Today’s Zaman (the English version of its flagship paper
Zaman), and Samanyolu launching several thematic channels (Samanyolu
Haber, Yumurcak TV, Mehtap TV, Tuna Shopping TV) as well as transna-
tional outlets (Ebru TV in the United States, Samanyolu TV in Africa, and
Hazar TV in Azerbaijan).13
In addition to strengthening its partisan media, the AKP also had its op-
eratives appointed as managers, editors, or columnists in various outlets in
an effort to promote its own political narrative and marginalize dissenting
voices. For example, Yalcin Akdogan, an AKP deputy and Erdogan’s adviser,
is a columnist with two pro-government dailies, Star and Yeni Safak; Erdogan
economic adviser Yigit Bulut has a column at Star; and a high school friend
of Erdogan’s son’s is a senior manager at not one but two television channels
(the state-run TRT and the commercial ATV). The appointment of members
of Erdogan’s inner circle is not limited to the pro-government media; it is
rampant among mainstream outlets as well. To cite just a few examples, Er-
dogan’s former press secretary, Akif Beki, is a columnist at Hurriyet; Nagehan
Alci, who is known for her partisanship, is at Milliyet; and countless other
AKP sympathizers with no background in the media sector are employed
as managers or editors at various broadcast outlets.14

Political Economic Pressures

The period between 2008 and 2010 was marked not only by the AKP’s cul-
tivation of its loyal media, but by the penalization of its critics as well. The
matter of the heavy tax fines imposed on Dogan Media is an important case
in point. In 2009, the Ministry of Finance levied escalating tax fines against
Dogan Media—first $500 million and later $3.5 billion—which in total nearly
equaled the value of the company’s assets and posed a clear threat to its sur-
vival. The government maintained that the charges were related to tax evasion
and accounting irregularities. However, analysts saw the charges as AKP’s way
of silencing criticism; back in 2008 it had been the Dogan-owned newspapers

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that had covered a corruption scandal involving an Islamic charity illegally
funneling money to the party.15 Given the fact that Erdogan had earlier ac-
cused these newspapers of printing lies and had called on his supporters to
boycott them, it was widely believed that the massive tax fine had been used
as a stick to punish Dogan. According to the International Press Institute, the
“timing and the unprecedented size of the tax fine raised serious concerns
that the authorities were . . . [using] the state apparatus to harass the media
. . . [and] that the aim was [not only] to punish the tax irregularity, but to
liquidate the largest media group in the country.”16 Veteran journalist Nuri
Colakoglu pointed out that “Erdogan was making a scapegoat of Dogan” and
“was sending out a message to other media companies” to toe the govern-
ment line or remain silent.17
While Dogan Media appealed the charges in court, giving way to a lengthy
process of legal and technical negotiations, Aydin Dogan stepped down as
chairman to appease Erdogan. This was soon followed by the resignation
of Ertugrul Ozkok, who had been the editor of Hurriyet (Dogan’s flagship
newspaper) for twenty years.18 In 2010 and 2011, Dogan Media closed down
Gozcu, a paper openly critical of the AKP; purged some of its most critical
voices from its mainstream papers Hurriyet and Radikal; and sold its other
mainstream papers, Vatan and Milliyet. Although the company said these
changes were part of a so-called restructuring plan, they were interpreted as
attempts to defuse a further confrontation with Erdogan.
As noted in chapter 1, for decades various Turkish governments had ex-
ploited the intricate political economic alliances they had with media owners.
However, the pressures media owners faced (and continue to face) under
the AKP regime, according to journalists interviewed for this book, are both
qualitatively and quantitatively different. A prominent columnist with a lead-
ing mainstream daily offered the following comparison between Erdogan
and Ozal—the former prime minister in the 1980s also known for his “cozy
and sometimes uneasy” relationship with the press:
When Ozal was upset with the press, he increased the newsprint prices or
limited the imports [of newsprint]. Such reprisals did put a pressure on the
press, but they never threatened the existence of a media company. Nor did
journalists lose their jobs. Ozal’s methods of reprimanding the press never
led the newspapers to be worried about their future or to fear obliteration.
However, the AKP, by using tax fines, threatened to wipe out Dogan Media.
Its aim was to silence Dogan. This tax fine not only affected [Dogan] but
also compelled other media conglomerates to rethink their editorial lines.
[The government] thus killed two birds with one stone, if you like: silencing
Dogan and delivering a message to others.19

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In another comparison of government pressures then and now, a former
AKP deputy said in an interview that Erdogan has “a much stronger grip
on the media and the business world than his predecessors had. The AKP’s
reach is quite extensive compared to even what the military was able to do
(in the 1990s). It is everywhere. Its members have connections to the busi-
ness world and civil society organizations, and they use this ‘soft power’ to
silence dissenting voices in the media.”20
While many believed that Dogan Media was “suffering martyrdom for
championing free speech,” a number of journalists working in non-Dogan
outlets described the row between Erdogan and Dogan in different terms.
Yavuz Baydar, a prominent columnist and at the time ombudsman of Sabah,
argued that Aydin Dogan, who had exploited his media companies to win
economic favors and wield political power in the 1990s, was now “crying foul
because the AKP government, unlike the weak coalition governments in the
past, was not fulfilling his business expectations.” Baydar maintained that
“at the heart of the row is the unfulfilled business expectations of a media
proprietor, and a Prime Minister who wants to take revenge for repeated
demands from him.”21 When the World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
at its 2009 Congress included Turkey as one of the most restrictive coun-
tries in terms of press freedoms and highlighted the case of tax fines against
Dogan, Baydar, who at the time was writing at Today’s Zaman, decried the
work of the organization as “ill-informed, superficial, biased and sloppy.”22
According to others, Dogan’s grievances about press freedoms had stemmed
from the fact that a new class of AKP-minded, conservative entrepreneurs
was now on the rise and beginning to challenge traditional capital-owners
in both media and nonmedia sectors.23 Sahin Alpay, columnist with Today’s
Zaman, argued that the real reason that journalists writing for Dogan Media
were voicing grievances of press freedom was because the hegemony of the
military-bureaucratic elite (that they had ardently supported and previously
benefited from) had suddenly come to an end under the AKP rule. Alpay
said that with the pacification of the military-secular establishment, Dogan
Media had lost its privileged position and began to find reason to complain
about the suppression of press freedoms, which Alpay described as “a shame-
ful case of hypocrisy.”24
Regardless of the real reason behind Dogan Media’s complaints concerning
press freedoms, it was evident that by the end of the decade, new patron-
client relationships had emerged, political parallelism had increased, and the
resignations and dismissals of critical voices from mainstream news media
had started to become normalized. Among those who lost their jobs due to
direct or indirect government pressures was broadcast journalist Banu Gu-

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ven, who was dismissed by the Dogus-owned NTV in 2011 for her criticism
of the AKP’s stance on the Kurdish issue. Following her dismissal, Guven
addressed an open letter to Prime Minister Erdogan in her blog:
In editorial meetings, the stories that will upset you are pushed all the way
to the bottom of the agenda; they are made invisible. This is not only true
for NTV but for other channels as well. Journalists think many times over
before they write their bylines or they leave out some “key” terms [from
their stories]. You know, this is called self-censorship. The censorship mon-
ster has now occupied the newsroom.25

In 2011, NTV also terminated two political news shows produced and
hosted by veteran journalists Can Dundar and Rusen Cakir. Responding to
questions about his departure, Dundar underlined the “dawn of a new era in
Turkey’s media field” marked by a “widespread purge, a cleanup” that possibly
will render “certain channels, newspapers or cadres of journalists [unable]
to find a place for themselves.”26 In addition to these specific changes, NTV
also shifted its overall policy away from news and politics toward entertain-
ment and lifestyle programming. These changes, according to Bugra and
Savaskan, can be attributed to the AKP’s election victory in 2011 when NTV’s
corporate owner, Dogus Holding, realized the need to curry favors with the
government for the sake of its economic interests.27
There were other mainstream outlets that bowed down to AKP pressures
(or perhaps were enticed by privatization deals, cheap credits, and the like)
and fired some of their most prominent columnists. In 2012, Ece Temelkuran
of HaberTurk and Nuray Mert of Milliyet were dismissed for their criticism of
the AKP’s Kurdish policy. The AKP-friendly papers were not immune from
layoffs either. In 2011, Andrew Finkel, a journalist based in Turkey for more
than two decades, was fired from Today’s Zaman for saying that the “AKP
government’s fight against anti-democratic forces was taking a decidedly
undemocratic turn.”28 In 2012, Mehmet Altan, editor-in-chief of Star, lost
his position when he started criticizing the government after many years of
support.29 Another pro-AKP newspaper, Yeni Safak, fired Ali Akel because
of his criticism of Erdogan regarding an air raid in southeastern Turkey that
claimed the lives of thirty-five Kurdish villagers. In the meantime, the impris-
onment and wiretapping of journalists under a major political investigation
known as the Ergenekon investigation played a crucial role in the remaking
of the media system in 2008–2010. The following sections take a closer look
at this investigation, its imprisonment of journalists, and its implications on
the relationships between the AKP, media, and the military.

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Legal Pressures
The aim of the Ergenekon investigation was to expose the organization known
as the Ergenekon, which is generally described as a wide network of military
officers, academics, intellectuals, journalists, and civil society organizations
believed to have been united for the purpose of unseating the AKP govern-
ment by provoking a military coup. This organization had also been linked to
the “deep state,” a term used to describe the shadowy group of military and
security officers, hit men and mafia bosses, national intelligence officers, and
counterterrorism units that had carried out illicit operations (unidentified
killings, bombings, disappearances) and had done the state’s dirty work in
the name of protecting it against external and internal threats in the 1980s
and 1990s.30
Ergenekon became the target of prosecutors in 2008 when law enforcement
officers discovered ammunition and weapons in an Istanbul apartment owned
by a retired military officer. The prosecutors (allegedly linked to the Gulen
community) launched the investigation with the aim of exposing the deep
state. In its early days welcomed by a broad coalition of supporters consisting
of liberal intellectuals, Islamists, and antimilitary circles, the investigation
was seen as an opportunity to end the impunity of the “untouchables of the
deep state,” to bring these untouchables to court, and to open up possibilities
for reforming Turkey’s political and legal system.31 While these supporters
endorsed prosecutors’ efforts to clean the country of its dirty past, opponents
saw them as part of a politically motivated witch hunt meant to silence the
military and proceed with their plan to Islamicize society.32
During the course of the investigation, hundreds of active and retired
military officers, civil society leaders affiliated with Kemalist organizations,
and academics and journalists were imprisoned. Breaches of law and due
process (the suspects were being held in custody based on vague indictments,
for example), doubts concerning some trial evidence (experts would deter-
mine computer files to be digitally altered), and leaking evidence from the
prosecutors to the AKP-friendly media led to questions about what the mo-
tives behind the investigation might have been. According to Michael Rubin,
a Turkey specialist, the indictments were troubling because of their lack of
specificity regarding the suspects and the crimes, the investigation’s reliance
on secret witnesses, and the possibility that evidence had been planted by
the police.33 Echoing similar concerns, Gareth Jenkins, a Middle East and
Turkey scholar, argued that the investigation had been launched by a “small
cabal of Gulen’s followers in the police and lower echelons of the judiciary”

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and was being used to “neutralize their enemies” in the military, bureaucracy,
and the media.34
Suspicions concerning the AKP-Gulen alliance’s use of the investigation to
eliminate their long-time foes in the military should not be taken to mean that
the deep state does not exist. It is well known that Turkey’s national security
apparatus, led by a network of military officers and right-wing nationalists,
has been engaged in a range of criminal activities since the 1980s.35 As Rubin
notes, the Ergenekon investigation offered an opportunity to eradicate this
apparatus, but unfortunately the prosecutors’ failure in meeting the mini-
mum legal standards came to undermine its legitimacy and led to the belief
that it all had been an AKP-Gulen conspiracy against the military-Kemalist
While the Ergenekon trials were underway, another investigation was
launched in 2010. Referred to as the Balyoz (“Sledgehammer”), it too brought
charges against military officers for their involvement in coup plans to over-
throw the AKP government. Similar to the Ergenekon investigation, the
legitimacy of this investigation was also questioned because of breaches
of due process and inconsistencies in trial evidence. 36 Nonetheless, both
investigations eroded the military’s authority, prestige, and popularity in
an unprecedented way. The Turkish Armed Forces, with approximately 30
percent of its active senior officers behind bars, saw a precipitous drop in its
approval ratings.37
Notwithstanding these political implications, the Ergenekon investigation
marked a significant moment in Turkey’s media landscape for two reasons:
its political legitimacy had been secured by a number of pro-AKP media
outlets, and its imprisonment of several journalists had created a chilling ef-
fect on media workers and contributed to the AKP’s already existing political
economic pressures. The following sections explore these issues in detail.

Legitimization of Ergenekon Trials

and Journalists’ Arrests
The military’s alleged involvement in the Ergenekon organization and its
plans to oust the AKP government had first been published in 2007 in Nokta
(“Period” in Turkish), a weekly political magazine. Nokta’s first story was
based on a leaked General Staff document that had categorized prominent
journalists as pro- or antimilitary, with the implication that the pro-military
ones should be mobilized against the AKP. Nokta’s second story concerned
the so-called coup diaries penned by a retired navy general, which had de-
tailed two abortive coup attempts dating back to 2004. The third story in-

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volved documents about the military’s plans to rally civil society organiza-
tions and the media in its fight against the AKP.
Obviously, Nokta’s stories would draw considerable attention and even
lead to debates about whether or not the magazine was being used by the
AKP as a tool to smear the military.38 Two weeks after the publication of its
third and final story, Nokta’s offices were raided by anti-terrorism task forces
and its computers were confiscated. After this incident, Nokta’s owner would
announce that he was closing down the magazine, citing intense pressure.
Yet the leaking of classified documents concerning coup attempts and the
questions surrounding their authenticity would not stop there.
About six months after Nokta had been closed, a new daily, Taraf, was
launched with the motto “to think is to take sides” (Taraf means “side” in
Turkish). Taraf presented itself as a new voice in Turkey’s media field, one
that it said was currently being overpopulated by pro-establishment, pro-
military newspapers. Adopting an antimilitary discourse, Taraf began to
publish internal military memos that would detail coup plans and other
schemes being used by the military to discredit the AKP.39 In a 2008 front-
page story, Taraf published the General Staff ’s “action plan,” which ostensibly
aimed to “align Turkish public opinion with the military [perspective]” and
to “make the high judiciary, media, universities, intellectuals and artists act in
concert with the military.”40 The story rocked AKP-military relations, already
strained by earlier political developments.41 Undeterred, Taraf continued to
publish one story after another that disclosed alleged “military plans to finish
off the AKP and the Gulen community, and fight Islamic reactionism.”42 In
a front-page story in January 2010, Taraf revealed the “Sledgehammer coup
scheme” based on leaked documents that reporter Mehmet Baransu received
in a suitcase.
Despite the suspicions concerning these allegations and the authentic-
ity of the documents, pro-AKP circles ardently supported Taraf’s coverage,
arguing that the paper served as part of the civilian resistance against the
military tutelage and was therefore a significant actor in the democratiza-
tion process. Yet there were also allegations that Taraf had been deliberately
launched by the AKP- Gulen alliance with the intention of weakening the
military. Former chief of staff Yasar Buyukanit insinuated that Taraf was being
financed by the Gulen community,43 and there were also widespread rumors
that the classified military documents and coup plans were being leaked to
Taraf reporters by Gulen sympathizers within the police department. The
fact that Taraf had never published anything critical of the Gulen community
itself and that some of its columnists were prominent Gulenists seemed to
confirm these claims.44 Taraf ’s publisher, Basar Arslan, would deny financial

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connections with the Gulen community and say that his paper was “on the
side of honesty and transparency against coups and gangs. We unveil illegal,
dark activities. We are not a pro-AKP paper. When necessary we criticize
the AKP as well.”45
It is important to note that Taraf had not been the only paper publishing
leaked documents and transcripts of illegally wiretapped phone conversations
that put military generals on the defensive. A similar “antimilitary campaign,”
in the words of a journalist interviewed for this book, was also being carried
out by Zaman and other pro-AKP outlets. Zaman, a high-circulation daily
aligned with the Gulen community, published a steady stream of stories and
op-eds championing the trials as steps toward democratization and stigmatiz-
ing anyone who questioned the evidence as pro-military and antidemocratic.
To illustrate Zaman’s outlook in regard to the arrest and imprisonment of
journalists, it is useful to quote its editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanli at length:
Some of our colleagues are making a great fuss. They may shout, cry and
make deafening noises, but the picture is crystal clear: Some people who
call themselves journalists choose to use this profession as armor behind
which to conduct psychological warfare. Unfortunately, some of those in
this profession have associated themselves with the state, intelligence orga-
nizations, military juntas and anti-democratic structures. They performed
their jobs in line with their orders. That is why the military was easily able
to stage coups once every decade and deal a severe blow to democracy.46

As exemplified in Dumanli’s op-ed, Gulen-affiliated media outlets (together

with other pro-AKP outlets) formulated their strategy around “a false choice
between democracy and military fascism” and readily labeled anyone who
questioned the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials as “coup enthusiasts,”
framing any criticism aimed at Erdogan and the AKP in general as “support
for the military.”47 In his detailed analysis of the Gulen community, Joshua
Hendrick attributes this broad media support to the “mutually supportive,
albeit tenuous, coalition” the AKP and Gulenists had established long ago in
order to “realize a power shift from the military to Islamist actors.”48 Hendrick
notes that successive AKP governments had facilitated the appointment of
Gulen adherents in the bureaucracy, judiciary, and law enforcement and
had created favorable conditions for Gulen-affliated businessmen to pros-
per both at home and abroad. In return for this strategic support, Gulenist
media outlets and civic and business associations lent support to the AKP,
promoting it as an agent of democratic reform.49
In the media coverage of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, the
efforts of the AKP-Gulen coalition engendered a pattern of circular verifi-

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cation. Taraf and Zaman would publish the leaked documents delivered to
their reporters by anonymous sources as well as the transcripts of wiretapped
conversations and the contents of CDs uncovered in police raids. Specially
appointed prosecutors would then use this information as evidence to bring
charges against the suspects. Needless to say, pro-AKP outlets would take for
granted the authenticity of these documents and would highlight the risk the
suspects posed to the country’s long-awaited opportunity for democratiza-
tion. The staunchly Kemalist newspapers, such as Cumhuriyet and Sozcu,
would focus on doubts concerning trial evidence and portray the investiga-
tions as an AKP-Gulen plot being directed against the secular republic. In
the meantime, mainstream outlets (Hurriyet and Milliyet, for example) would
try to discredit the trials by focusing on “mishaps and inconsistencies in the
investigation and the seemingly endless arrests of journalists,”50 while not
completely denying the existence of the deep state itself.

Charges against Journalists

The cases brought against the journalists during the Ergenekon investiga-
tion had primarily rested on two categories of charges. The first had to do
with the journalists’ reporting on the investigation and the “violating of the
secrecy of an ongoing trial.” Between 2008 and 2010, when the investigation
was at its most intense, approximately four thousand cases had been opened
against journalists. Many of these cases had been launched under Article 285
of the Penal Code, which criminalizes reporting on a confidential criminal
investigation, and Article 288, which criminalizes attempting to influence
trial proceedings.51 Needless to say, these court cases would deter journalists
from investigating political corruption or possible illegal formations within
state institutions. In more practical terms, journalists would find themselves
so consumed with their own defense needs in courthouses that they “[did]
not have any means to fulfill [their] responsibilities as reporters.”52
The second category of charges was more severe and accused several jour-
nalists of having connections to Ergenekon, which then led to their impris-
onment without trial. The first wave of arrests came in 2008 when Mustafa
Balbay, the Ankara bureau chief and columnist for the staunchly secular
Cumhuriyet, and Tuncay Ozkan, journalist and owner of a cable channel also
known for its defense of secular principles, were charged under Article 309
of the Penal Code with attempting to overthrow the government. The second
wave of arrests took place in February 2011 when the headquarters of OdaTV
.com, a political news website known for its anti-AKP stance, was raided by
the police, leading to the imprisonment of its founder, Soner Yalcin, along

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with seven others. All were charged with “collaborating with the Ergenekon
organization,” “inciting hatred and enmity among the public,” and “possess-
ing secret documents related to national security.”53 The third and perhaps
most shocking wave of detentions came in March 2011 when Nedim Sener,
a prominent investigative journalist with Milliyet, and Ahmet Sik, a reporter
with Radikal, were accused of Ergenekon membership. The fact that both
journalists had been investigating the deep state for years and yet were now
in prison allegedly for being its accomplices sparked outrage among fellow
journalists. What added further irony was that in 2010 Sener had been hon-
ored as a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute for
his book exposing the involvement of national security units in Hrant Dink’s
murder. It is believed that the actual motivation for Sener’s arrest had been
his relentless investigative work and his criticism of the AKP government
and state security agencies for their lack of transparency in the Dink murder
investigation. Ahmet Sik, on the other hand, is believed to have attracted the
ire of Gulenist prosecutors because of his manuscript, “The Imam’s Army,”
which documented the Gulen adherents’ infiltration of the law enforcement
and the judiciary. Suspicions about the political motivations behind these
arrests became validated in late March when the police raided the offices of
both Radikal and Sik’s prospective publisher and deleted all digital copies of
the manuscript. Nevertheless, the manuscript, which Erdogan had compared
to a bomb, went viral shortly after the police raid and was eventually printed
in paperback and undersigned by 125 intellectuals and writers in support of
freedom of speech.

Erosion of Privacy and Freedom

of Communications
An implicit, yet particularly alarming, effect of the Ergenekon investigation
was the loss of privacy and freedom of communications, since evidence sup-
porting the above-mentioned arrests had come mainly from computer disks
and personal documents seized in police raids and from wiretapped phone
conversations. In 2009, the Ministry of Justice revealed that some 113,000
people, including 56 judiciary officials, had been wiretapped as part of the
Ergenekon investigation.54
On several occasions, transcripts of wiretapped conversations were either
leaked to AKP-friendly media outlets or published as part of prosecutors’
indictments; they then became available in the public domain. Even worse, in
some cases audio files of illegally tapped conversations were posted online by
sources who remained anonymous but were believed to be AKP supporters.55

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Obviously, wiretaps had a chilling effect on journalists, especially on those
who had been critical of the Ergenekon investigation or the AKP govern-
ment. Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist with the mainstream newspaper Milliyet,
said, “Me [sic] and most of my colleagues do not feel that our conversations
are private. Turkey has reached a point where nobody wants to talk to you
on the phone if you are a journalist. Nobody wants to give you a quote on
a critical topic. The tapping instills fear in society at large that there is a Big
Brother watching all of us.”56
Although Article 22 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom and pro-
tected secrecy of communications, the right to private communication is not
well respected in Turkey, and there has been widespread illegal wiretapping
by a myriad of state and government actors ranging from intelligence units
to police investigators. As in the Ergenekon investigation, police investigators
can easily label an individual as a potential terrorist or as someone involved
in organized crime merely to justify their wiretapping requests. Judges will
then allow the wiretapping, basing their rulings on the argument that the
national security or public order is being threatened, or that crime should be
prevented, and public health and public morals should be protected. Article
135 of the Criminal Procedure Code also maintains that telephone conversa-
tions of individuals suspected to be involved in a crime can be wiretapped
and recorded by court order.
Not only did the acts of wiretapping and the leaking of wiretapped conver-
sations have a detrimental effect on privacy and freedom of communications,
but journalists critical of the AKP government or of the Ergenekon investiga-
tion were subject to smear campaigns by pro-AKP media based solely on those
leaked conversations. According to Sedat Ergin, a columnist with mainstream
Hurriyet, the “government has usually been complacent about [widespread
and systematic violations of privacy and freedom of communications], and
has not really taken any steps to deter such violations. So when there is no
deterrence, people think they can engage in such violations and get away with
it.”57 As Jenkins notes, the “curious absence” of investigations by the Ministry
of Justice about the leaks not only exacerbated the climate of fear for many
journalists; it also added to the mistrust of the judiciary, and perpetuated
claims about the political-bias of judicial and administrative units.58

The KCK Operation and Legal Hounding

of Kurdish Journalists
Surely the Ergenekon trials were not the only source of legal pressures on
journalists in 2008–2010. Dozens of Kurdish journalists were also impris-

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oned as part of an anti-Kurdish operation in 2011. As discussed in chapter
3, since the 1990s Turkish courts have been using the Anti-Terror Law to
prosecute journalists for a number of crimes, such as their coverage of the
armed conflict between the Turkish military and the PKK, criticism of the
Turkish military, and expression of pro-Kurdish opinion. Although the AKP
had passed some amendments to the Anti-Terror Law in 2006 as part of its
EU harmonization agenda, prosecutors continued to use the law against
Kurdish politicians, journalists, and activists. The 2011 arrests were therefore
only the latest examples of the continuing repression of Kurdish rights and
the gap between AKP’s rhetoric and reality.
Beginning in 2009 and continuing over the next two years, prosecutors
charged hundreds of Kurdish politicians (including six elected mayors from
the legal Kurdish political party), lawyers, activists, and journalists with mem-
bership in the KCK—the Union of Kurdistan Communities, a body affili-
ated with the PKK. By 2011, the number of those arrested had reached an
astounding 4,500 and those held in custody 1,800.59 Among those arrested
were 51 journalists and editors from the pro-Kurdish news outlets Dicle Haber
Ajansi (Dicle News Agency) and Ozgur Gundem (“Free Agenda”), who were
all charged with PKK connections, membership in the KCK’s so-called Press
Committee, and dissemination of terrorist propaganda.60
Because of the vague language of the Anti-Terror Law provisions, Kurdish
journalists’ support for Kurdish ethnic rights, their criticism of the actions
of the Turkish military, and their references to PKK leaders even in basic
news reporting were considered acts of terrorism. In this regard, the case of
the sole Kurdish daily, Azadiya Welat (“Free Homeland” in Kurdish) and its
staff is especially telling. Since its launching in 2006, Azadiya Welat has had
to hire nine different editors because all have successively been arrested. The
paper itself has been banned countless times on charges of spreading PKK
propaganda. During the KCK operation in 2010, its editor, Vedat Kursun,
was arrested and sentenced to 166 years in prison for disseminating terror-
ist propaganda by using the terms “Kurdistan” and “guerrilla” in his op-ed
pieces; for publishing his interview notes with the imprisoned PKK leader
Ocalan; and for quoting other PKK members.61 The paper’s publisher, Ozan
Kilinc, and editor, Tayip Temel, were also arrested, both on charges of KCK
membership. Temel’s previously published articles and his correspondences,
headline discussions, and requests for stories and photographs from report-
ers, all of which came from wiretapped conversations, were described by
prosecutors as “organizational activity.”62

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The Issue of Press Freedoms and
Lack of Professional Solidarity
With the ever-increasing number of imprisoned journalists, the decline of
press freedoms became a matter of international attention as well as a do-
mestic political issue. According to Turkey-based Bianet (Independent Com-
munications Network), the number of journalists behind bars in 2011 was
104. Reporters without Borders ranked Turkey 148 among 179 countries on
its World Press Freedom Index and cited 2011 as the year of “unprecedented
arrests, massive phone taps . . . and escalating judicial harassment of jour-
nalists,” all of which had created “a climate of intimidation in the media.”63
The Council of Europe noted that dysfunctions of the judicial system and
certain provisions of the Penal Code, the Anti-Terror Law, and media legisla-
tion had led to “a great degree of self-censorship” in the mainstream press.64
The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to the Turkish minister
of justice asking him to curb the widespread use of secret evidence against
journalists and to afford all detained journalists due process under the law.
Local organizations such as the Turkish Journalists Association, the Plat-
form for Freedom for Journalists, the Turkish Journalists Union, the Turkish
Writers Union, and the Platform for Solidarity with Jailed Journalists called
on the government to release the jailed journalists. In 2012, the Committee
to Protect Journalists observed that the AKP had been waging “one of the
world’s biggest crackdowns on press freedom in recent history.”65
The AKP’s response to these reports was to heatedly deny their validity
and to argue that the number of jailed journalists had been overblown. In
his response to mounting criticism at home and abroad, Erdogan said the
journalists behind bars had actually been arrested not for their journalistic
activity but for guns or explosives possession, forgery, sexual harassment,
terrorist activities, or attempts to overthrow the government. Making this
statement on the same day as Reporters without Borders released its con-
demning report, Erdogan noted that the West was unable to comprehend
the arrests of journalists in Turkey because “their journalists were not at-
tempting to incite a military coup.”66 In an opinion brief, Minister of EU
Affairs Egemen Bagis argued that there is a vibrant public sphere in Turkey
where the media and public openly debate the Kurdish issue, the Armenian
issue, minority rights, and the role of the military—topics once considered
too sensitive. Bagis added that opposition views are indeed freely expressed,
and that there are no restrictions on freedom of speech in Turkey. As for the
detentions and arrests of journalists, Bagis argued they have nothing to do
with the journalists’ professional work, the books or articles they publish

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or plan to publish—or, least of all, their opinions. He said journalists who
raise concerns about suppression of the free press were “shedding crocodile
tears.”67 A similar argument was made by Sahin Alpay, who wrote in Today’s
Zaman that the “multitude of newspapers, radio and television channels,
[and the] multitude of writers and commentators who present a very tough
opposition to the government” stood as evidence that there is a pluralistic
and free media environment.68
Notwithstanding the negative international attention, the decline in press
freedoms became a partisan issue in domestic politics and exposed a lack of
solidarity among the journalistic community. While some journalists, espe-
cially those in mainstream or anti-AKP outlets, raised concerns about the
dismissals and imprisonment of their colleagues, others argued that Turkey
had no press freedom problem and claimed that it was all an exaggeration by
the Kemalist elite at home and Western critics abroad to discredit the AKP
government. Some journalists, such as Cengiz Candar, who had had his share
of state repression in the past, claimed that the Western publications were
wrongly accusing Turkey of becoming a police state. In his op-ed piece in the
Guardian, Candar said Western critics were misguided because they were
“unaware of the domestic context within which the arrests were conducted.”
Echoing the AKP line, he noted that “there is no shortage of sharp criticism
of Erdogan’s government in the Turkish media. Freedom of expression is part
of the daily routine,” and he tried to rationalize the arrests: “The journalists
who’ve been arrested were not arrested because of their journalistic activities
or for expressing their opinions: they are suspected of being part of a plot to
topple the civilian government.”69

This chapter has discussed the remaking of the media field during the period
between 2005 and 2013 by exploring the reshuffling of ownership structures,
the AKP’s strategic use of economic sticks and carrots, and the arrests of
journalists working in both the mainstream and the Kurdish press. How can
one understand the AKP’s incursions into the media field? Journalists and
media and political analysts have generally discussed these issues within the
framework of press freedoms, journalistic autonomy, and professionalism.
Notwithstanding the significance of the press freedom framework, I find it
equally important to reflect on the media/state or market/state relationships
that have been discussed in various national, regional, and transnational
contexts. Some of these analyses draw upon a liberal perspective and as-
sume that the market and the state are opposites, and that the former is a

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democratizing agent and the latter a repressive force. Granted, this focus
sees the development of market-based mass media as a force that facilitates
democracy, not constrains it. But that focus often comes at the expense of
an examination of the interdependence of state power and private capital or
the myriad forms that state control can take. As Des Freedman reminds us,
neoliberalization does not necessarily entail the withdrawal of the state from
the media field or its disengagement from policy making. On the contrary,
state actors (continue to) take the initiative to strategically reregulate the field
by proposing reforms and molding “politically acceptable bargains” in favor
of big business, which then produces less, not more, competition, plurality, or
diversity.70 Likewise, David Harvey notes that the state continues its presence
as a powerful economic agent in its own right, thanks to various modes of
intervention such as taxation arrangements, redistributive policies, and state
provision of public goods and direct planning.71
In Turkey’s case, one can observe the prevalence of state control over media
in its myriad forms and the associated problems such as the instrumental-
ization of commercial media for political economic gain as well as the nor-
malization of media partisanship and polarization. Obviously, Turkey is not
alone in this regard but shares similarities with several countries in Eastern
and Central Europe, Latin America, and Asia,72 as discussed in chapter 2.
In Turkey’s contemporary media landscape—that is, what remains as the
outcome of the dismantling of state monopoly in broadcasting, the privatiza-
tion of communication assets, and the adoption of market-friendly policies
in the 1990s—commercial outlets have been simultaneously independent of
the state and dependent on it. They are not formally owned, operated, or
dominated by the state, yet their survival depends on their informal ties with
the ruling elite, high bureaucracy, and judiciary. While this dependency on
the state is not a new development (as earlier chapters have shown), it has
nonetheless revealed itself in astounding ways under the AKP’s single-party
In the 1990s, when coalition governments ruled the country, the opposi-
tion parties had carried some political weight, the military was busy exer-
cising its hegemony over political affairs, and proprietors of mainstream
media outlets skillfully maneuvered the divisions among these actors and
exploited them for economic gain. In the following decade, with the decline
of the military’s political power, the elimination of Kemalist cadres from the
state bureaucracy and the judiciary, and the ossification of opposition par-
ties, these proprietors found themselves stripped of their ability to exploit
the complex web of relationships among different power holders, and they
eventually found themselves compelled to toe the government line to vary-

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ing degrees, as seen in the examples of Ciner, Dogan, and Dogus. (Needless
to say, I am not advocating a return to the days of the military hegemony,
but rather pointing to mainstream media owners’ complicity in supporting
a military-dominated regime in the 1990s.)
State-dependency transpired in different terms for the pro-AKP media
proprietors. The relationships between these new entrepreneurs and the AKP
were more about “mutual dependency” and less about “colonization by the
ruling party,” as Bugra and Savaskan remind us. When loyal businessmen
entered the media sector in growing numbers in 2005–2013, they were not
simply motivated by prospects of receiving favors from the government, but
they were also “doing favors for the government.” These entrepreneurs knew
very well that their acquisitions would not turn an immediate profit, but
rather would help them “strengthen [their] position in political networks”
as well as “reflect political commitments [to the AKP], and consolidate good
relations with the government.”73 It is also worthwhile to note that these
relations are marked by common bonds of religion, since both the AKP and
religious-conservative entrepreneurs use Islam as a “network resource,” “build
trust in economic transactions,” and “include [some market participants] and
exclude others from the state largesse” based on a shared belief system.74
Privatization deals and public procurement contracts that are worth mil-
lions of dollars make up the majority of this state largesse. Since decisions
concerning privatization are made by the Privatization High Council (which
operates directly under the Prime Ministry) and public procurement con-
tracts are issued by the government, entrepreneurs with close relations with
the government are those who benefited from the state largesse especially
in the energy, urban development, and healthcare sectors. Bugra and Savas-
kan show that successive AKP governments made more than one hundred
amendments to the Public Procurement Law, increasing its own discretionary
power and limiting the role of autonomous bureaucratic institutions. By giv-
ing tenders to entrepreneurs they favored, and not following “open tender”
guidelines, the AKP has “intervened in economic activity” and “enabled
politically-supported capital accumulation.”75

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6. Gezi Park Protests, Corruption
Investigation, and the Control
of the Online Public Sphere

The previous chapters explored Turkey’s media system as a byprod-

uct of the tensions between forces of decentralization and centralization and
illuminated the dialectical relationships between market imperatives and state
prerogatives, democratization efforts, and nationalist, statist currents. While
these chapters discussed the implications of such push-pull forces within the
contexts of media ownership, policy making, and media freedoms, I now turn
my attention to the online sphere. Through the prism of two developments in
2013—the Gezi Park protests and the corruption scandal, I discuss the pos-
sibilities and limits of online communications and the AKP’s authoritarian
reflex toward the burgeoning networked public sphere.

Gezi Park Protests

On May 27, 2013, close to thirty activists held a sit-in in central Istanbul’s
Gezi Park to block the razing of trees as part of the government’s plans to
build a shopping mall and luxury apartments. The police’s brutal attack to
disperse the sit-in on May 29 sparked a wider protest that lasted for several
days. Upon receiving news about the attack mostly via social media, hundreds
of people began pouring into the Taksim neighborhood. The next thirty
hours or so saw intense clashing and even more police brutality, and on June
1 the police retreated, leaving Gezi Park occupied by citizens with various
cultural and political identities––Kurds, Alevis, LGBTs, environmentalists,
feminists, soccer fans, secularists, and leftist Islamists, among others. United
in their discontent with the AKP’s environmental, urban, and labor policies;
unhappy with its neoliberal agenda bent on rent-seeking and cronyism; and

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disappointed with Erdogan’s increasingly obvious authoritarian tendencies,
protestors voiced their demands for democratic rights, pluralism, and di-
versity. As Caglar Keyder puts it, the Gezi protestors wanted “to be able to
defend public space against neoliberal incursion, and refused to live under
the authoritarian guidance of a self-appointed father of the country. They
felt at home in a collective way of life with gender equality and respect for
diversity—a recipe for a new covenant that makes irrelevant the pretensions
of Erdogan’s supposedly benevolent (and now wrathful) paternalism.”1
This spontaneous, civilian, leaderless protest soon spread to other cities
and led to an unprecedented number of antigovernment demonstrations.
According to the Ministry of Interior, close to 3.5 million citizens participated
in more than 4,700 events in Turkey’s 80 provinces (out of 81).2 Although
protests in the smaller provinces were relatively limited in size, those in
Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir, and Antakya were large, and increasing,
retaining their momentum despite accompanying police brutality.3 Across
the country, according to a report released by the Human Rights Founda-
tion of Turkey (Turkiye Insan Haklari Vakfi), police brutality left 5 citizens
dead, 11 blind, and more than 8,000 injured. In addition, more than 5,500
citizens were detained, with 189 arrests (including fellow protestors, lawyers,
and medical personnel who had provided the demonstrators with legal and
medical aid). The courts opened 97 cases against more than 5,500 protestors.4
In Istanbul, the Gezi encampment was dispersed on June 16 when the
police forcefully evacuated the park, burned down protestors’ tents, and even
attacked volunteer doctors and makeshift infirmaries with heavy tear gas.
Following the evacuation, citizens continued to congregate in neighborhood
community meetings (referred to as “forums”) in order to discuss local issues
and develop initiatives and strategies for horizontal organization.5 Although
these protests and forums waned by the end of summer 2013, the “Gezi spirit”
resurfaced in smaller, sporadic events across the country. Notwithstanding
the political implications of the Gezi protests, the following sections discuss
the upsurge in social media usage and the revelation of the compliant and
self-censoring nature of the news media during the protests.

Social Media Use during the Gezi Protests

Between May 31 and June 1, at least 2 million tweets were sent out mention-
ing hashtags related to the Gezi Park protests (#direngeziparkı, #occupygezi,
#geziparki, #resistgezi). These coordinated with postings on several Facebook
pages possessing similar names. Despite the breakdown of the 3G network
in the Taksim area due to sudden heavy traffic (and, according to some

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reports, the intentional signal jamming by the authorities), Twitter usage
remained high partly because some local businesses had helpfully removed
security codes from their Wi-Fi networks.6 During the Gezi protests, not
only did the number of tweets increase, but the number of Twitter users did
as well—from 1.8 million on May 29 to more than 9.5 million on June 10.7
As protests and clashes with police intensified, protestors also used Twitter
to share information about where to find medical and legal assistance, where
and when police violence was occurring, and how one could document illegal
and violent police practices.
In giving this account, my objective is not to assess the effectiveness of
social media in mobilizing, organizing, or bringing about political change,
nor to portray social media as a tool of emancipation or revolution (as has
been generally understood to be the case during the Arab revolts). I am also
aware that too much faith placed in big data can lead to methodological and
conceptual pitfalls.8 Instead, I wish to highlight other points in regard to
social media usage during the Gezi protests. Although there is not sufficient
research data to fully illuminate the pervasiveness of social media usage or
the demographic composition of users, the following should nonetheless offer
us a glimpse. According to a survey conducted by local research company
Konda during the first week of protests, 69 percent of protestors at Gezi Park
said they had first heard about the events (such as police brutality, occupation
of the park, etc.) from social media. The average age of this group was 26.
Seven percent of those at the park said they got the news from television, and
the average age of this group was 40.9 Meanwhile, Pew Research found that
those who accessed social media to get news about the protests amounted
to 49 percent of the general population. The majority of survey participants
said they got protest-related news from national television (89 percent), in-
ternational or satellite television (78 percent), and newspapers (73 percent).
Among those who used social media for protest-related news, 70 percent
were under the age of 30, and 77 percent had postsecondary education.10
These findings, though not very comprehensive, suggest that those who
used social media during the Gezi protests were educated youths, but that
television and newspapers continued to serve as key sources of information
for broad segments of the population. These findings resonate with other
research data concerning the demographics of Internet users in Turkey in
general, especially in terms of age, education level, and geographical loca-
tion. According to 2015 data, Internet penetration in Turkey is 49 percent,
with 38 million users. There are about 40 million active Turkish social media
accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and LinkedIn.11 Forty
percent of these users are between the ages of 15 and 24, and 29 percent be-

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tween 25 and 34.12 According to a 2014 survey, 34 percent of Internet users
self-identify as middle class; 25 percent are high school graduates, and 52
percent have a university degree. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Internet
users are based in the Marmara (44 percent) and Aegean (25 percent) re-
gions, which are economically more developed and include the major cities
Istanbul and Izmir; 25 percent of Internet users reside in central, eastern and
southeastern regions; and only 6 percent live in the Black Sea region, where
economic development levels tend to be lower.13

Mainstream Media’s Reticence

The impact of the Gezi Park protests on Turkey’s media landscape should
be explored not only in terms of an upsurge in social media usage (albeit
limited to certain population segments) but also in relation to mainstream
media’s own lack of coverage. In this sense, the Gezi protests helped reveal
mainstream media’s fear of crossing the government and the unholy alliances
between the two. For example, on the third day of protests when clashes be-
tween protestors and the police had intensified, one of Turkey’s most promi-
nent news channels, NTV, chose to continue its regular programming rather
than broadcasting live from Taksim. In the meantime, another prominent
outlet, CNN Turk, opted to show a penguin documentary, which led to the
labeling of the channel and others like it as “penguin media.” The notorious
absence of coverage subsequently led to unprecedented displays of criticism
aimed directly at mainstream media. In one instance, close to three thousand
people gathered in front of NTV studios, waving paper money in their hands
and holding up posters with images of the three wise monkeys. Protestors
chanted “sell-out media” and compelled Cem Aydin, CEO of Dogus Media
(NTV’s parent company), to acknowledge that the channel had betrayed
its audiences, forcing a promise of full coverage of the ongoing protests.
However, under intense pressure from corporate bosses not wanting to risk
their business relationships with the government, Aydin himself was forced
to resign a few days later.
Indeed, the patron-client relationships between media conglomerates and
the AKP (as discussed in chapter 5) produced effective censorship not only
for NTV but for almost all mainstream outlets. In the words of veteran jour-
nalist Nuri Colakoglu, “media outlets took the most cautious approach” and
did not cover Gezi protests for “fear of retaliation” similar to the massive tax
fine that had been imposed on Dogan Media back in 2009.14 In addition to
such implicit pressures, there was also direct governmental pressure on news
channels to downplay the protests and portray the protestors as “marginal”

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individuals or worse as members of terrorist organizations. In interviews
I conducted for this book, several reporters told me that their editors had
received phone calls from AKP officials “warning” them about their coverage.
In a moment of exasperation, one veteran journalist with a major news chan-
nel said, “We are journalists, but we find out what’s happening in [Taksim]
from foreign media. We are not real journalists; we are [just] pretending.”15
In the meantime, those journalists who dared to take a critical stance
were simply dismissed by wary bosses. According to a report by the Turkish
Journalists Union, seventy-seven journalists were fired or forced to resign in
the summer of 2013 because of their Gezi coverage; the numbers are actually
believed to be much higher.16 Another casualty came when Dogus Media
terminated its popular history magazine NTV Tarih, fearing the magazine’s
special issue on Gezi would infuriate Erdogan. Media workers found them-
selves under fire not only for their professional work but even when their
personal messages appeared on social media. In my interviews, professionals
at a major media conglomerate (including those working at a home and life-
style magazine owned by the conglomerate) told me they received periodical
“warnings” from their human resources department to “watch what they
were posting on Facebook and Twitter” about the protests.17
While mainstream media remained silent, most critical coverage was
found in antigovernment outlets such as Kemalist newspapers Sozcu and
Cumhuriyet, leftist dailies Evrensel and Birgun, on Kemalist cable news chan-
nels Ulusal TV and Halk TV, and on independent channels IMC TV and +1
Haber.18 (The pro-government media’s approach to Gezi is discussed below).
The vacuum of news and information was also filled by online platforms.
From relatively big, independent professional news websites (such as T24 and
Bianet) to dissident ones with leftist or pro-Kurdish affiliations (Sendika, Sol,
Evrensel, Birgun, ANF, Yeni Ozgur Politika), online outlets saw significant
increases in traffic and numbers of unique visitors. As users uploaded images
of protests and police brutality and shared stories from the ground, alternative
sites with user-generated content (Baska Haber, Vagus TV) achieved similarly
high levels of popularity. These videos were also uploaded on YouTube and
Facebook by activists hoping to fill the void left by traditional news media.
Meanwhile, some protestors started their own online outlets to live-stream
the events, provide commentary, or disseminate information. Among them
was Capul TV, launched by a handful of Gezi Park activists with the motto
“The Medium of the Resistance.” (Capul is Turkish for “looter,” an image
Erdogan used to describe the protestors.) From its makeshift studios in Gezi
Park, Capul TV broadcast live interviews with protestors and provided an
insider’s view of the encampment.19

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On Twitter, journalists known for their critical view of the AKP tweeted
from the ground in support of protestors. With their posts retweeted by
hundreds of thousands of followers, these Twitter users became key sources
of news and information. A citizen journalism platform named @140Jour-
nos also gained special prominence on Twitter during the protests. Named
after Twitter’s character limit for messages, @140Journos was founded back
in January 2012 in response to the media blackout following the killing of
34 Kurdish villagers by the Turkish Air Force.20 Until the Gezi protests, the
group’s seven core members tweeted information to the public about po-
litical events, demonstrations, and court hearings that were not covered in
detail by mainstream media. During the Gezi protests, @140journos began
to retweet messages sent by protestors on the ground to several cities across
the country and became a prominent information hub.21 Indeed, its tweets
increased from 401 in May to 2,218 in June, and the number of its followers
from 8,000 to 45,000. As of this writing, the account has close to 52,000 fol-
lowers, and the number of volunteers is around 300. The core team remains
in charge of aggregating, verifying, and categorizing the content generated
by these volunteers.22
The use of the Internet and social media for purposes of news gathering
and sharing continued well after the Gezi protests waned. Disillusioned by
blatant self-censorship in mainstream news media, several journalists who
were fired from their posts found refuge in online outlets. Some began to
write for existing independent news sites such as T24, while others started
their own. For example, six months after the Gezi protests, a group of veteran
journalists founded P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism) as a not-
for-profit initiative and with the objective “to support and promote editorial
independence in the Turkish press, to create a public appetite for media
independence, to define and promote best journalistic practice, and more
specifically to encourage the transition to web-based journalism.”23 In 2014,
some journalists and reporters who lost their jobs during the Gezi protests
launched GriHat, an online news site. Citizen journalism platforms also
multiplied in the post-Gezi period. Among them is Dokuz8Haber, which
self-identifies as a “citizen-focused news agency,” brings together citizen and
professional journalists, and, in addition to producing content, organizes
training sessions for aspiring journalists.

The AKP’s Response to Gezi

During the nationwide protests, the AKP’s main strategy was to mobilize its
party and supporters in order to frame the Gezi protests as a global conspiracy
against Erdogan, thus rhetorically offering a security narrative portraying the

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protestors as “looters” and rationalizing a need to “contain” them.24 Granted,
the pro-government media had already dismissed the protests, calling them
the work of an international conspiracy aimed at weakening Turkey and
disrupting the well-being of the state. In the AKP’s (and its loyal media
bloc’s) version of events, behind the protests was the “interest rate lobby”—
a shadowy group of foreign (read: Jewish) financiers who wished to stir up
unrest in Turkey, drive up interest rates and borrowing costs, and ultimately
undermine the Turkish economy.25
Upset with the foreign media’s critical coverage of the protests and live
reporting from Istanbul, the AKP described foreign journalists as “pawns” in
this so-called global conspiracy. Egemen Bagis, the minister of EU affairs at
the time, proffered an explanation linking the BBC and CNN’s live coverage
of Gezi protests to the “dark forces jealous of Turkey’s growth.” Bagis stated:
“Somebody somehow financed these broadcasts. Like our Prime Minister
said, the losses of the interest rate lobby due to low interest rates in Turkey
exceeded $650 billion. This drives them crazy and they are doing everything
to disturb the calm in our country and win back their losses.”26 Bagis went on
to condemn the foreign press for depicting Turkey as “a country where daily
life has been halted” and for damaging the country’s image, adding that “after
9/11, the U.S. media, too, was very sensitive in reporting events . . . Turkish
media outlets are sensitive because they don’t want to create tension within
the country.”27
Fears about external enemies and their alleged efforts to weaken Tur-
key obviously resonated with the Sevres Syndrome (see chapter 1). As then,
the narrative was prominently displayed in the pro-government media. For
example, the Islamist daily Takvim published a fake interview with CNN’s
Christiane Amanpour, quoting her as saying that CNN had covered the
Gezi protests on behalf of international conspirators. The fake interview
was published under the headline “Dirty Confession” and contained a note
conceding that while the interview was not real, its version of events was.28
Another episode involved the vilification of Selin Girit, a London-based
reporter for BBC Turkish, because of her coverage of the Gezi protests. The
AKP mayor of Ankara described Girit as a “British agent” and initiated a
Twitter campaign against her with large numbers of threatening messages.29
Later, Erdogan called Girit “part of a conspiracy against her own country,”
once again evoking the Sevres rhetoric about internal enemies.30
An important point to note here is that the AKP’s Gezi-related conspiracy
theories were bolstered by wider geopolitical shifts, especially those develop-
ing in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood in the Middle East. The July 2013
toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt provided am-
munition for the AKP’s claims about so-called Western conspiracies against

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the Muslim world.31 Erdogan and AKP officials, who are ideologically affili-
ated with the Brotherhood, used the developments in Egypt to tap into the
prevalent Islamist rhetoric and to claim that both the military coup in Egypt
and the Gezi protests in Turkey were manifestations of Western powers’
attempts to overthrow democratically elected Islamic parties and institute
puppet governments.
Based on this nationalist and Islamist rhetoric, the AKP and partisan media
outlets demonized not only protestors and journalists but also the Internet
and specifically social media platforms. First came Erdogan’s attack in a tele-
vised interview labeling Twitter a “menace” and “a curse on societies” that
harbors “all sorts of lies.” Erdogan’s statements were soon followed by those of
his cabinet ministers, who, paradoxically, were posting messages on Twitter,
accusing protesters of spreading disinformation via Twitter.32 Shortly after
these utterances, twenty-four people were taken into custody in Izmir due
to the tweets they had sent and were charged with smearing the police and
spreading false details about the protests.33 Minister of Maritime, Transpor-
tation and Communications Binali Yildirim signaled that new restrictions
would soon be placed on online communications, claiming that protestors
had carried out cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure “to stir unrest
and to bring Turkey to its knees. Social media cannot be used to incite riot,
to defame others, to unsettle the public order. [Our] intention [in introduc-
ing new regulatory measures] is not to limit freedom of communication but
to assure public safety,” he said.34 Yildirim’s statements were soon echoed by
Muammer Guler, then minister of interior. Blaming “false information shared
over social media” that had “misguided the youth” and led to protests that
“threatened the security of life and property of people,” Guler announced
that his ministry would be working on a series of regulations for Facebook
and Twitter.35 Indications of oncoming restrictions materialized as early as
June 2013 when the protests were still continuing. Shortly after Yildirim’s
allegations about cyber attacks, the government established the Center for
Intervention in Cyber Events (SOME is its Turkish acronym) consisting of
representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Telecommunica-
tions Communication Presidency (TIB), the Information and Communica-
tion Technologies Board (BTK), the Scientific and Technological Research
Center (TUBITAK), and law enforcement officers.36 A national action plan
was published calling for the introduction of further restrictions on the Inter-
net and the formation of teams specially trained to deal with cyber attacks.37
Despite vilifying social media, AKP officials nonetheless came to recog-
nize how Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube could be harnessed to “set the
agenda, drive trends and counter [the party’s] critics.” Six months after the

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Gezi protests, the AKP hired six thousand young, tech-savvy party members
to “volunteer as social-media representatives.” The driving force behind this
initiative, according to a party official, was to “promote the party perspective,
and to correct the opposing camp when they spread disinformation, always
using positive language.”38 However, since their recruitment, the AKP’s social
media volunteers have been mostly engaged in the harassment and intimi-
dation of opposition politicians, foreign and domestic journalists, and even
ordinary users considered to be political foes. Engaging in “spam wars,” they
have come to be known as “AK trolls.”

The Corruption Investigation

Six months after the Gezi protests, the AKP received another blow to its moral
legitimacy, this time because of a massive corruption investigation. On the
morning of December 17, Turkey woke up to the news that close to fifty pro-
AKP figures had been arrested in orchestrated raids. These figures included
the sons of three cabinet ministers, the general manager of the state-owned
Halkbank, the AKP mayor of an Istanbul district, an Iranian businessman,
two construction magnates, and several AKP officials involved in zoning
and public construction projects. Charges included graft, bribery, and tender
rigging, and even reached the inner circle of Prime Minister Erdogan and
his son. The public, ever-acclimated to scandals, was nonetheless shocked
by these charges, especially the news of $4.5 million stuffed in shoe boxes
in the home of Halkbank’s general manager, money counters found in the
home of one minister’s son, and court documents that summoned Erdogan’s
son. Even more shocking details were revealed when leaked audiotapes of
conversations between Erdogan, his close associates, and pro-AKP business-
men began to circulate on Twitter and YouTube.
The AKP responded to the corruption investigation and the incriminating
evidence in ways similar to its handling of the Gezi protests. Erdogan, party
officials, and their sympathizers in the media promulgated the message that
the investigation was the work of external (Israel, the West, Jewish financiers)
and internal enemies, only this time the internal enemy was the Gulen com-
munity. Because police chiefs and prosecutors engaged in the investigation
were implicit Gulen loyalists, Erdogan and AKP officials understood the
investigation as a backstabbing move, a “judicial coup” undertaken by their
one-time ally, and swiftly removed hundreds of police officers and prosecu-
tors from their posts.39
The corruption investigation was yet another watershed moment in Turk-
ish politics, for several reasons. Firstly, as mentioned above, it brought to the

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surface the simmering rivalry between the AKP and the Gulen community,
ultimately leading to the collapse of their decade-long alliance. Secondly, it
exposed widespread bribery, cronyism, and rent-seeking, especially in the
construction and energy sectors where pro-AKP businessmen had made their
fortunes. Thirdly, and most importantly for the purposes of this chapter, it
led to a reshuffling of political pacts in the media field, exposing the extent
of the AKP’s control over media outlets and its increasing repression of the
online communicative space.

The AKP–Gulen Media War

As erstwhile allies turned into foes, so did newspapers and television chan-
nels owned or aligned with them. Gulenist newspapers and television chan-
nels (Zaman, Today’s Zaman, Bugun, Samanyolu TV, Kanalturk, Bugun TV,
Samanyolu Haber) that had unequivocally supported the AKP over the past
decade became fierce critics of Erdogan overnight. They persistently covered
(or maybe more aptly “overreported”) appalling details of corruption, brib-
ery, and cronyism in the higher echelons of the party and the government.
Formerly firm supporters of the AKP, especially during the Ergenekon trials
and the KCK probe (see chapter 3), ironically these outlets had now become
part of the anti-AKP coalition and joined their secularist, leftist, nationalist
counterparts. In the meantime, newspapers and television channels owned by
Erdogan loyalists (Star, Yeni Safak, Aksam, Sabah, Akit, Turkiye, Takvim, ATV,
A Haber, Kanal 24, Sky360, Kanal 7, Ulke TV) took on the role of government
mouthpiece as they pumped out articles and commentary claiming the cor-
ruption investigation was a coup attempt by the Gulenist “parallel state” and
that Gulen followers in the law enforcement, judiciary, bureaucracy, media,
and business sectors were conspiring with the “Jewish lobby.” Thus, one sig-
nificant implication of the corruption scandal was the revelation of internal
conflicts within the seemingly homogenous religious-conservative media.

Leaked Tapes
The AKP–Gulen media war was not limited to newspapers and television
channels, but also played out on social media. Gulen loyalists, hoping to strike
a blow to the AKP in the approaching local elections, began to post tran-
scripts of leaked conversations between Erdogan, his cabinet ministers, and
partisan businessmen on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud. The
reason Gulenists posted these incriminating conversations under individual
social media accounts as opposed to via mass media is twofold: they wanted

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to circumvent the court-issued gag order that prohibited media outlets from
covering the investigation, and they sought to avoid a legal quagmire regard-
ing the publication of these leaked tapes. (At the time, the authenticity of the
tapes was not legally verified, but it was never formally invalidated by the
AKP either). Two Twitter accounts emerged as major hubs for the dissemina-
tion of said tapes: @Haramzadeler (“Sons of Thieves”) and @Bascalan (“The
Prime Thief ”), and their corresponding pages on Facebook and Soundcloud.
To bolster the impact of the audio files, Gulenists supplemented them with
transcripts and pictures of the persons involved. With one shocking post
after another, @Haramzadeler and @Bascalan gained over 300,000 follow-
ers. The leaked conversations were distributed by these followers on other
social media platforms and were also picked up by anti-AKP newspapers
and television channels, though they could only tangentially allude to them
because of the gag order.
These conversations, leaked by Gulenist police officers who had apparently
been wiretapping Erdogan and his close associates for some time, obviously
served to expose the massive corruption among AKP cadres. But they also
brought into sharp relief the extent of Erdogan’s micromanagement of media
owners and executives. The unholy alliances between the AKP and media
conglomerates came to light during the Gezi protests, and these tapes pro-
vided damning evidence. One recording revealed Erdogan calling a senior
executive at HaberTurk news channel and asking him to remove a certain
news ticker about the Gezi protests. In the call, senior executive Fatih Sarac,
who serves as the AKP operative at HaberTurk, is heard apologizing pro-
fusely and ordering the immediate removal of the ticker. Needless to say, this
recording created an uproar among the journalistic community, yet a few
days after it was made public, Erdogan openly acknowledged its authenticity:
“I only made some reminders. And those individuals to whom I conveyed
these reminders did what was necessary . . . When insults are made [against
us], I or my friends call [media executives] . . . I don’t know if it is wrong [to
tell them what to do]. But we have to teach such things.”40
A second recording surfaced on which Fatih Sarac and HaberTurk’s editor-
in-chief, Fatih Altayli, are heard discussing plans to manipulate a public
opinion poll in order to make the AKP look better. Subsequently, Sarac calls
Erdogan’s son, telling him about “the solution they found” and asks him
“to kindly convey this information to the Prime Minister.” Obviously, these
tapes created another wave of furor to which Fatih Altayli responded by
acknowledging their authenticity and, in turn, the AKP’s pressure on media
outlets: “Governments have always tried to put pressure on media and [to]
manipulate them. Yet there has never been so much pressure as there is now.”41

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A third recording disclosed Erdogan’s direct involvement in the sale of
Sabah/ATV. As discussed in chapter 5, the pro-Erdogan Calik Group had
acquired this newspaper/television enterprise in 2011. When Calik put it up
for sale in 2013, foreign investors such as Time Warner and NewsCorp had
expressed interest in it, but as revealed in the leaked recording, Erdogan and
one of his ministers personally stepped in and made arrangements to keep
Sabah/ATV in “friendly hands.” On the recording, Erdogan, his minister,
and three AKP-loyalist businessmen are heard making arrangements to raise
a pool of money to cofinance the purchase, with the minister promising
government tenders covering financial losses to the businessmen if Sabah/
ATV were not to turn a profit.42 Since none of the involved persons denied
the authenticity of this recording, it came to confirm claims about Erdogan’s
cultivation of partisan media.

Crackdown on Social Media

As these and other incriminating conversations involving Erdogan, party
officials, and loyalist businessmen surfaced on social media ahead of the
approaching local elections, the AKP resorted to a well-known authoritar-
ian strategy to prevent their circulation. A few weeks before the March 30
local elections, the TIB, the country’s telecommunications authority, blocked
access to Twitter, citing a court order that came after complaints had been
filed by citizens––one of whom was a woman whose identity had been stolen
and who was being subjected to defamatory messages posted against her
on Twitter. In reality, Erdogan had signaled the ban hours before it was put
into effect. At an election rally, he had announced: “We now have a court
order. We will eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international commu-
nity says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic!” In his
speech, laden with nationalist and religious-conservative rhetoric, Erdogan
rationalized the ban by claiming that it was about protecting individual rights
(and particularly those of the woman whose image had been circulating on
pornography sites) and portrayed Twitter as a malicious, foreign company
that was part of a wider conspiracy to weaken Turkey, its national unity, and
social cohesion. As Zeynep Tufekci notes, Erdogan’s strategy was targeted to
co-opt the individual privacy complaints so as to “demonize social media”
and to “place it outside the sacred sphere, as a disruption of family, as a threat
to unity, as an outside blade tearing at the fabric of society.”43 Indeed, around
the same time, Erdogan, government officials, and local AKP administrators
were making statements that portrayed the Internet as a source of corrupt
morals. Even Erdogan’s wife, Emine Erdogan, called for a nationwide battle

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against “technology addiction” because it degenerated Turkish youth and
families. In a public meeting, she compared computers, cell phones, and
television to drugs and said that they affect the brain, sabotage family unity,
and therefore must be controlled.44
A week after the Twitter ban, Gulenists posted on YouTube a leaked con-
versation between the minister of foreign affairs, the head of the intelligence
agency, and other high-level intelligence officers discussing possible military
action in Syria. But as soon as the audio file was made available online, You-
Tube was banned. In an effort to justify the ban, Erdogan evoked the typical
state sovereignty discourse and called the posting “villainous and dishonest,”
while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decried it as “a wretched attack and an
act of espionage.”45
Nonetheless, the bans on Twitter and YouTube were ineffective. Indeed,
the Twitter ban actually led to an increase in the number of tweets—reach-
ing approximately 24 million a day.46 Both bans were later overturned by the
Constitutional Court (in April and May 2014, respectively), which ruled that
they violated the principle of freedom of expression.47 Yet in April 2015, the
same social media platforms were banned again. This time an Istanbul court
ruled that images of a prosecutor held at gunpoint by a leftist organization
were helping “spread terrorist propaganda” and hence should be removed.
Facebook complied with the court decision, removing the criticized images
before the deadline and averting the ban. Twitter and YouTube remained
unavailable for a number of hours, but they too complied and removed the
Turkish authorities’ amped up efforts to control social media can be mea-
sured by the sharp increase in number of their content removal requests.
For example, according to Google’s latest available Transparency Report, the
number of items that Turkish courts asked the company to remove increased
from approximately 100 in the first half of 2012 to more than 9,600 in 2013,
marking a 966 percent increase.49 Facebook said it removed 1,893 pieces of
content in the first half of 2014 and 3,624 in the second half as per Turkish
authorities’ requests.50 It also complied with more than half of the 249 cases
in which Turkish authorities asked for user data.51 In its own transparency
report, Twitter said it received “156% more requests from Turkey” in the first
half of 2014, “with the number of accounts specified for withholds growing
over 765%.” Out of 2,642 tweets Turkish authorities asked to be withheld,
Twitter withheld 1,820.52
To put these figures in perspective, it is important to note a few points:
First, in regard to the crackdown on social media, Turkey ranks among the
top countries with the most removal requests. In the first half of 2014, Turkey,

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India, and Pakistan made the most content removal requests to Facebook
based on pretexts of blasphemy and governmental criticism. Second, and
perhaps more importantly, is the inclination of the social media companies
to comply with Turkish authorities’ requests so as to avoid a total ban and
consequently avert losing users or advertising revenues in Turkey’s ever-
growing digital market. Twitter has been criticized for blocking certain us-
ers or tweets from being seen in Turkey (via its “country-withheld content”
tool), which Turkish activists describe as akin to “selective censorship.” 53
Facebook has also been accused of censorship by Turkish users because of
its closing of pages with Kurdish or pro-Kurdish content. In 2013, Facebook
shut down more than ten pages, including those created by various Kurd-
ish politicians and two pages of a more general nature—a Kurdish music
page and a Kurdish newspaper. Facebook also shut down Otekilerin Postasi
(“The Others’ Post”) on several occasions.54 As of 2014, the dissident page,
which originally launched in 2012 to express solidarity with Kurdish politi-
cal prisoners, was closed on nine different occasions based on “community
complaints.”55 Responding to accusations of censorship, Richard Allan, the
director of Facebook policy in Europe, said the pages in question had been
shut down not because of their pro-Kurdish ownership or opinion but be-
cause they had been posting content praising the PKK and featuring its logo,
flag, and colors––this when the PKK was otherwise considered a terrorist
organization by the United States and EU.56 More recently, in January 2015,
shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Turkish courts threatened to ban
Facebook if it did not remove images depicting Prophet Mohammad, and
Facebook immediately complied and removed the images, despite the CEO
Mark Zuckerberg’s earlier statement promising to “never let one country or
group of people dictate what people can share across the world.”57

Strict(er) Legal Framework

One significant tool in the AKP government’s arsenal to control the online
public sphere is the imposition of a strict legal framework. These controlling
inclinations of the AKP can be traced back to 2007 when the party passed the
country’s first Internet Law. Officially titled the Regulation of Publications
on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by Means of Such
Publications, this law was primarily a response by the AKP-led Parliament
to three specific areas: 1) the increasing use of online communications, par-
ticularly among the adolescent population; 2) this population’s easy (and in
most cases unsupervised) access to online content; and 3) the ensuing social
fears around moral issues involving teen sexuality, pornography, drug use,

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video games, and violence. Prompted by these fears and buoyed by the ris-
ing tide of religious conservatism, the Internet Law sought specifically to
protect children and youths from illegal and harmful content.58 Among the
punishable crimes it listed were encouraging suicide, sexual abuse of children,
obscenity, prostitution, gambling, drug abuse, and the slandering of Ataturk’s
legacy.59 The online regulatory framework, much like those concerning print
and broadcast media, drew from political anxieties around national identity
and national security and presupposed specific cultural sensitivities regard-
ing family and moral values, which have become more pronounced during
the AKP era.
In 2014, around the same time that Twitter and YouTube were banned,
the AKP-led Parliament passed a new Internet Law despite a barrage of
criticism from the Internet, free speech activists, and international organiza-
tions. Whereas the former law required a court order prior to the blocking
of a website and tasked the ISPs with blocking access to the offending site
within twenty-four hours, the current law gives the TIB the authority to block
websites based on a complaint filed for breach of the “privacy of persons”
clause and to do so without obtaining a court order. According to the new
law, ISPs are obliged to block access within four hours. The new law enables
a URL-based blocking system, making it possible to block individual social
media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). If the “offending” website
is hosted domestically, it can be taken down by the TIB; if it is hosted abroad,
then said content can be blocked and filtered through ISPs.60 The new law
even gives the president of the TIB the authority to block URLs without
complaints having been filed at all. Another controversial provision requires
ISPs to collect data on users’ activities for up to two years and to provide
authorities with this data on demand.
In addition, the AKP passed a new intelligence law in 2014 in order to ex-
pand the surveillance of online users. The law gives the National Intelligence
Organization (Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT) unfettered access to online
and offline “information, documents, data, or records from public institu-
tions, financial institutions, and entities with or without a legal character.”
In practice, the MIT is now able to request and obtain citizens’ personal
data from any public or private institution (banks, schools, hospitals, ISPs)
without a court order and remaining immune from prosecution while do-
ing so. Because the MIT is not autonomous, it is highly likely that the AKP
will use the agency’s expanded powers for the unwarranted surveillance and
political witch hunts of dissidents, journalists, and even ordinary online users
to quash any online criticism directed at the agency. Moreover, the new law
also criminalizes “the leaking and publication of secret official information,

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punishable by a prison term of up to nine years,” and gives the AKP yet
another tool to prevent the press and online news sites from reporting on
government corruption, official misconduct, and the like.61 In January 2014,
immediately following the passage of the law, an Istanbul court prohibited
all media outlets (print, broadcast, and online) from disseminating infor-
mation and commentary on the corruption investigation, which in practice
amounted to a media blackout.62
Another AKP initiative to control the Internet and social media is a pro-
posal the government introduced in 2014, which includes certain amend-
ments to the Press Law. If passed by the Parliament, the amendments will
make “Internet news sites” fall under the same Press Law provisions as news-
papers and periodicals. In the proposal, “Internet news sites” are defined
vaguely as “periodicals that publish news or commentary on the Internet by
textual, visual or audio means,”63 making it extremely difficult to determine
if blogs, online commentary, social media posts, Internet radio, and other
user-generated content (YouTube videos, Soundcloud audio files, etc.) will be
subject to the new Press Law. Moreover, according to the proposal, “Internet
news sites,” if they choose to do so, will register with the authorities so as to
be eligible for public advertisements. In the meantime, they will be required
to post the names of their owners, managing directors, authors, and hosting
providers online, which undoubtedly will make it impossible for online con-
tributors, commentators, and bloggers to write anonymously. Although the
government argues that the proposed amendments will enable “Internet news
sites” to receive official advertising, obtain press cards, and therefore benefit
from the rights and privileges of their print counterparts, critics note that the
proposed registration scheme will create additional bureaucratic burdens for
site owners, not to mention potential chilling effects on free speech online.64

Nationalist, Statist, and Islamist Values

in Online Regulatory Framework
Initiatives undertaken by the highly politicized judiciary and state institutions
bespeak the AKP’s attempts to confine the boundaries of the online public
sphere around nationalist, statist, and Islam-inspired conservative values. For
example, the long-standing preoccupation with national identity, unity, and
sovereignty are evident in the persistent use by the courts, the TIB, and the
BTK of the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law provisions to block numerous
Kurdish websites and impose limitations on Kurdish cultural and political
representation.65 Concerns with the safeguarding of Ataturk’s legacy, another
potent mainstay of Turkish nationalism, led to the notorious banning of

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YouTube in 2007.66 That year Greek users of YouTube had posted a few vid-
eos that portrayed Ataturk as gay. These videos led to an online retaliation
by Turkish users who started depicting traditional Greek military guards as
gay. When the Ataturk videos caught the attention of Turkish authorities,
they requested Google (YouTube’s parent company) to remove them not only
within Turkey’s territorial borders but all over the world (in order to “protect
the rights and sensitivities of Turks living outside Turkey”).67 Google agreed
to block the specified videos in Turkey but refused a worldwide removal.
Upset with this decision, a Turkish court blocked YouTube in its entirety. The
courts argued that the videos deeply offended the Turkish people and “hurt
their sensitivities.” YouTube then remained inaccessible for approximately
three years until November 2010, when a German-based company claimed
copyright ownership of the Ataturk videos and removed them.68
It would be reductive to consider the Twitter and YouTube bans and the
passing of suppressive legislation as knee-jerk reactions by the AKP. Inas-
much as they were driven by the AKP’s need to contain political fallout from
the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal, these developments should also
be understood as yet another manifestation of the state’s entrenched intoler-
ance of dissent in the public sphere and of the sway of statist, nationalist,
and religious-conservative values in media culture. Indeed, the new Internet
Law had been in development prior to the corruption scandal and the Gezi
protests. Back in 2012, Binali Yildirim, the minister of maritime, transpor-
tation and communications, announced that the government would start
working on plans to block Facebook and Twitter in cases where there was a
“threat to public safety.”69 Yildirim did not say what exactly would constitute
a threat, but he assured the public that the block would be “momentary” or
“last only a few hours.” He said that his ministry would be working with the
BTK to balance public safety with freedom of communication as well as to
make sure the final legislation was unambiguous and unable to be perceived
as a censorship attempt. Yildirim claimed the decision had been based on
reports that pointed to the role of social networks as “catalysts” in the breed-
ing of ethnic and religious conflict between Turks and Kurds, and that this
had demonstrated social media’s ability to provoke the masses.70 Yildirim’s
statement caused an uproar among Internet users, leading Yildirim to quickly
deny that the government had been working to ban social media at all.71
The AKP’s proxy institutions also undertook initiatives to protect moral
and religious values. For example, in 2011 the BTK mandated that all In-
ternet users install a filtering system on their computers and choose from
four filtering packages: “child,” “family,” “domestic,” or “standard.” Following
strong reactions from academics, legal scholars, and civic organizations,

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the BTK rolled out a nonmandatory version with just two filtering options:
“family” and “child.”72 Any filtering system is clearly problematic since there
is uncertainty as to which criteria the BTK is using to block access to ob-
jectionable material for families and children. According to the Freedom
House report, the “child” filter blocks access not only to illegal and harmful
content, but also to Facebook, YouTube, dissident online radio outlets, the
website of Agos (the Armenian minority newspaper), and several websites
on the theory of evolution.73
Another measure put in place to protect the moral values of Turkish so-
ciety involves a list of certain words banned from Turkish domain names.
Introduced in 2011 by the TIB, the list comprises 138 words, including Turk-
ish words such as gey (the Turkish pronunciation of “gay”), ciplak (“naked”),
itiraf (“confession”), liseli (“high school student”), yasak (“forbidden”), pic
(“bastard”), and “31” (slang for male masturbation), and English words such
as “beat,” “escort,” “hot,” “nubile,” “free,” “teen,” and “anal.” In April 2011, the
TIB sent the list to Turkish hosting companies asking them to ban any domain
names including any of these words.74
As part of the so-called family-safety measures, the courts have also opened
cases against individuals accused of “insulting Islam” by AKP associates.
The first case involved the world-famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say, who was
prosecuted for his Twitter posts. In June 2012, Say was charged with “inciting
hatred and public enmity,” “insulting religious values,” and “offending Mus-
lims” on the basis of Articles 216 and 218 of the Penal Code.75 Because Say is
a vocal critic of the AKP government, however, it is widely believed that his
Twitter posts, in which he quoted a poem by Rumi, were being used as an
excuse to silence him. In April 2013, Say was handed a suspended ten-month
prison sentence and a stipulation saying that if he does not commit a similar
offense within the next five years, the sentence will not need to be enforced.76
Similarly, Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Eksi Sozluk, a collaborative
online dictionary, was handed a nine-month prison sentence in 2014. Like
Say, he was charged with “insulting religious values, and inciting hatred and
enmity,” based on Penal Code Articles 216 and 218. The court also issued a
stay of execution stipulating that he would not go to prison if he did not
commit a similar offense within the next five years.77 In an interview with
the Radikal newspaper, Kapanoglu asserted that his online writings had
not included any blasphemous expressions, and that he was criticizing both
Islam and Christianity. He added that the prison sentence and the stay of
execution were part of the AKP’s broader efforts to silence critical opinions of
Islam. In another 2014 case, a teacher with the Twitter handle @AllahCC was
sentenced to a fifteen-month prison sentence for insulting Islam.78 Because
the user, whose name was not released, had pretended to tweet as Allah, the

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court accused him of “humiliating the religious values accepted by majority
of the people.”79

During the Gezi protests, social media served as a vital source of information,
organization, and political expression especially among urban, tech-savvy
youths. Likewise, during the corruption scandal, government opponents
leaned on social media to disseminate incriminating evidence against Erdo-
gan, his party, and his cabinet. In both cases, the AKP responded by adopting
a heavy-handed approach (e.g., detaining Twitter users, banning Twitter and
YouTube, passing a new Internet Law) and by depicting social media plat-
forms, companies, and users as forces bent on destroying Turkey’s national
unity, state sovereignty, social cohesion, and moral values. In this sense,
pressuring Western-based social media companies to remove content and
threatening to ban them in cases of noncompliance could be read as populist
initiatives on the part of the AKP. For example, when Erdogan said, “We
will eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says.
Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” he was not only
concerned with the online dissemination of damaging evidence against his
government but was also energizing the party’s Muslim nationalist base. By
depicting Twitter as an external enemy and the ban as a way of taking on the
West, Erdogan was appealing to nationalist sentiments, and perhaps using
the ban as a substitute for the lost geopolitical power of Turkey’s predecessor,
the Ottoman Empire.
As this chapter has shown, the AKP’s regulation and control of the online
public sphere along the axes of nationalism, statism, and religious conser-
vatism are not new. Since 2005–2007, the TIB and the BTK have engaged
in extensive filtering and blocking and have asked local and transnational
companies to remove certain content on several occasions, and the AKP-
dominated Parliament has constructed a strict(er) legal framework. The
deployment of these various tools points to Turkish authorities’ combin-
ing the first-, second-, and third-generation controls that Ronald Deibert
and Rafal Rohozinski discuss in their analysis of governmental censorship
and control of the Internet around the globe. Whereas the first-generation
controls consist of Internet filtering and blocking, the second-generation
controls involve the passing of legal restrictions, content removal requests,
the technical shutdown of websites, and computer-network attacks; and the
third-generation controls include warrantless surveillance, the creation of
“national cyber-zones,” state-sponsored information campaigns, and direct
physical action to silence individuals or groups.80

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The AKP government has used all three types of controls and has gradu-
ally focused its energy on second- and third-generation controls. Like the
authoritarian governments in Russia, China, former Soviet republics, and
several countries in the Middle East and North Africa,81 the AKP is trying
to curb the potentially disruptive techno-cultural practices and social media
affordances by prosecuting individual users, passing legislation to monitor
and collect data about online users, and creating a “Twitter army” to shape
the national information space. In this regard, the AKP’s overall media strat-
egy bears curious similarities to that of the Putin administration. Like the
Russian government, the AKP employs a “weaponization of information”
strategy that rests on spreading state propaganda in news media, running
misinformation campaigns, and using trolls on social media to harass op-
ponents.82 The AKP’s “Twitter army” echoes the “troll army” that the Russian
Department of Internal Policy created in response to anti-Putin rallies in 2011
with the aim of “harassing political dissidents, promoting Putin’s agenda and
slamming the Western narratives.”83 Moreover, the AKP’s recent proposal to
create a registration scheme and to subject “Internet news sites” to the Press
Law provisions mimics Russia’s “blogger law.” This law was introduced by the
Kremlin to contain the online sphere, seemingly the last refuge for Russian
dissidents, and it requires bloggers with more than three thousand unique
visitors a day to register with the state media watchdog and follow the same
rules as journalists in mass media outlets. The law also requires bloggers to
“verify information before publishing it and abstain from releasing reports
containing slander, hate speech, extremist calls or other banned information
such as, for example, advice on suicide.”84
The AKP’s approach to the Internet brings to mind the “authoritarian
persistence” thesis that Marc Lynch uses to explain how states adapt to the
changes unleashed by new communication technologies and learn how to
use the new powers of the Internet as they go.85 In 2013 and 2014, the AKP
government was faced with two major legitimation crises (the Gezi protests
and the corruption scandal) that found fertile ground particularly in the
online sphere. In response to the emerging culture of critique on social me-
dia and new forms of interaction between citizens and the state, the AKP
amped up its efforts to contain the networked public sphere and ultimately
put Turkey in the same league with authoritarian regimes around the world.
Complementing its filtering, blocking, and surveillance systems with new
strategies, the AKP now not only undermines freedom of online speech but
also weakens the prospects of a democratic, pluralistic public sphere—issues
that I explore in detail in the concluding chapter.

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Turkey has experienced tectonic shifts in all spheres of life for more
than three decades. Post 1980, the Republican project was subject to a trans-
formation that, despite its leading to massive shifts in political economic
structures, still left the centralized, authoritarian character of the state un-
touched. Since 2002, another wave of transformation occurred as the AKP
came to power and began to undermine the political economic privileges of
the military and its civilian allies.1 Yet this transformation did not lead to a
more democratic order but, on the contrary, paved the way to a reconsoli-
dation of the long-standing authoritarian neoliberal trajectories, this time
mixed with religious-conservative ideology.2

The Rise of the Turkish Model and the Arab Spring

Both at home and abroad, analysts generally associate the AKP’s first and
second terms with economic growth and political liberalization. In the eco-
nomic realm, the expansion of the middle classes, decrease in inflation rates
and government debt, and concomitant growth of GDP helped project Turkey
as a successful emerging market.3 In the political realm, the combination of
pressures from the EU and domestic factors empowered the AKP to under-
take democratization and demilitarization efforts, as seen in the limiting of
the National Security Council’s power, the lifting of the death penalty, the
removal of the ban on broadcasting in languages other than Turkish, and
the introduction of legislative changes to prevent torture and mistreatment.
These democratization endeavors helped the AKP gain wide support from
EU officials, Western policy makers and domestic liberal circles alike who

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had been longing for the dismantling of the Kemalist status quo. The AKP
came to be portrayed (and indeed portrayed itself) not only as the true rep-
resentative of the people, but also as a counterforce against the repressive
military/secularist establishment.4
In the post–September 11 world (one where Islam has been generally
associated with radicalism, violence, and terrorism), the AKP came to be
uniquely celebrated for its success not only in governing a Muslim-majority
country, but also in governing an economically thriving, globally integrated,
democratic one. In 2011, when the Arab uprisings prompted a rethinking of
the relationship between Islam and democracy, Turkey was celebrated as a
model for countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Here was the AKP,
an Islamist political actor (although consistently referred to in Western narra-
tives as “a moderate Muslim party”) that had established neither a theocracy
nor any form of sharia law but, on the contrary, had pursued EU member-
ship, taken steps toward instituting democratic rights, and integrated with
global capitalism. In debates about the future of democracy in the region, the
Turkish model was used to confirm that Islamic actors, once they had been
included in the democratic process, could indeed be moderated and shed
their extremist positions.5 Although the validity of the Turkish model was
questioned by some analysts because of the obvious dissimilarities between
Turkey and most Arab nations, and because of Turkey’s unique experiences
of Westernization, secularization, and globalization, Turkey nonetheless
became the shining example of an economically stable, pro-Western, and
pro-democracy actor in the midst of an ever-turbulent Middle East.6
Turkey’s self-styled democratic success was also noticed by public opinion
in the Arab world. According to a 2010 survey by TESEV (Turkish Economic
and Social Studies Foundation), 75 percent of Arab respondents considered
Turkey a successful example of a secular Muslim state with a vibrant economy
in a democratic setting.7 In 2012, despite foreign policy challenges concerning
Syria, Iraq, and Iran, 69 percent of Arabs still considered Turkey as the most
powerful political and economic force in the region.8
Among contributing factors to Turkey’s increasing significance in the
region were the growth of bilateral trade and diplomatic ties with several
Middle Eastern countries. These initiatives (such as trade agreements and
the lifting of visa restrictions) were part of the AKP’s activist foreign policy
that was developed by then foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (now the
prime minister). Davutoglu argued that Turkey’s “strategic depth” (that is,
its historical, cultural, and political links with the Middle East and Eurasia)
would enable the country to “reverse the spread of Western power in the
Balkans, Central Asia, and the Middle East” and “establish itself as a global
actor and help create new global institutions.” To this end, Davutoglu said,

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Turkey needed to put into action the historic, cultural, and religious bonds
it shared with Middle Eastern countries.9
During the Arab Spring, this foreign policy formulation caused the AKP
to lend support to regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt and, more specifi-
cally, to the Islamist parties that (in its view) embodied people’s democratic
demands.10 However, as Aaron Stein notes, the AKP’s support for regime
changes in these countries was not borne of a true commitment to democracy
but rather of the calculation that the empowerment of Muslim Brotherhood–
affiliated parties would help Turkey “reconnect with its neighbors through
Muslim unity” and create opportunities for Turkey to increase its influence.11
Although the AKP’s foreign policy during the Arab Spring was “uneven
and based on self-interest,” Turkey was nonetheless hailed as a model country.
For example, Rachid Ghannouchi of Tunisia’s En Nahda party said Turkey
was a “true example to the Arab world” and added: “We are learning from
the experience of Turkey, especially the peace that has been reached in the
country between Islam and modernity. The Turkish experience inspires the
Arab world. Human rights, democratic freedoms and economic progress in
Turkey—these are the biggest supports that Turkey gives to the Arab world.”12

The Myth of the Turkish Model

As seen in the above comment (and several others), the construction of Tur-
key as a model country drew upon the convergence of economic growth and
democratization efforts during the AKP’s early tenure. However, it obscured
several critical developments that should have raised questions about the
party’s commitment to democracy. One such development was the reversal
in the EU-led reform agenda. Since the passage of several harmonization
packages in 2003–2004, there has been a slowdown in membership talks,
eventually leading to a standstill by the end of the decade. Some analysts argue
the AKP never really cared about EU membership or democratic consolida-
tion but used the accession negotiations as an instrument to undercut the
military’s hegemony, and once it had succeeded, it simply gave up on EU
reforms. Others attribute the AKP’s loss of interest in EU membership to the
EU’s replacing its “full membership” invitation with that of a more limited
“privileged partnership.”13 The policy reversal may also have been influenced
by the palpable drop in support for membership among the Turkish public,
the rising anti-Western sentiment, and the AKP’s impulse not to alienate its
Muslim nationalist voter base.
In addition to the abandonment of EU reforms, there were other develop-
ments that cast a shadow on the AKP’s image as a democratizing agent. As
discussed in chapter 5, the imprisonment of military officers, journalists,

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academics, and civil society leaders under the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer
investigations led to suspicions that the AKP (together with its ally at the
time, the Gulen community) had been using the trials for political retribution
and intimidation, while the mass arrests of thousands of Kurdish politicians,
activists, lawyers, and journalists under the KCK operation raised concerns
about the AKP’s candor regarding the “Kurdish opening.”
It was only in 2013 when the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal
erupted that the AKP’s democratic shortcomings finally came into sharp fo-
cus. During the Gezi protests, criticism heightened both at home and abroad
over the AKP’s sustained campaign to erode freedoms of expression, asso-
ciation, and the press, and over the party’s imposition of strict controls over
the public sphere. Later that year, the corruption scandal portended further
questioning of the AKP’s political economic agenda when widespread brib-
ery, cronyism, and rent-seeking at the higher echelons of the party came to
light. More revelations emerged as the AKP’s overall disregard for the rule
of law was demonstrated in its purging of judges, prosecutors, and police
chiefs engaged in the corruption investigation; its placing of new judges who
dismissed the charges; and its blocking of social media platforms to stop the
dissemination of incriminating evidence.
The Gezi protests and the corruption scandal opened up a discursive av-
enue for the vocalization of not only the AKP’s shortcomings but also the
precarious nature of the Turkish model. Both liberal intellectuals at home
and Western policy makers abroad began to ask: Had the AKP solely been
playing the EU card and undertaking legal reforms so it could reach its ul-
timate goal of declawing the military? Were the Ergenekon and Sledgeham-
mer trials simply a sham—one that was allegedly aiming to democratize the
country but in reality was doing nothing more than replacing one repressive
apparatus (the military) with another (the AKP-Gulen cadres)? Was the AKP
pursuing the peace process with the Kurds only to curry favors with them
and garner their support for Erdogan’s ascent to presidency? Was Erdogan
taking Turkey down the path to authoritarianism?
The AKP’s commitment to democratic norms, individual liberties, and
pluralism had always been tentative (as discussed in chapters 4, 5, and 6), and
indeed its authoritarian drift had been in the making for quite some time,
well before the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal. In what follows, I
offer insights into the AKP’s politicization of state institutions, monopoliza-
tion of state power, institution of religious conservatism, incursion into civil
liberties, and continuation of national security policies as they relate to the
media field. By extension I illustrate that the AKP in essence reproduced the
authoritarian neoliberal order that had been established in the 1980s.

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The Politicization of State Institutions
Since 2010–2011, it had become clear that the AKP was adopting the autocratic
inclinations of the very state it had initially promised to reform. As Ertug
Tombus notes, the AKP not only “failed to democratize or abolish state in-
stitutions and mechanisms that had been established in the post-1980 era by
the military regime”; it had chosen to manipulate them for its own political
gains and to “create its own tutelage over democratic politics.”14 In the media
field, the AKP turned the state broadcaster TRT, the news agency AA, and
the media monitoring agency RTUK into its own proxies. Notwithstanding
the fact that the TRT has never functioned in a truly autonomous fashion
in its history, its partisan composition and biased programming reached
new heights under the AKP rule. To illustrate this point, a quick look at the
airtime the TRT channels had allocated to candidates before the August 2014
presidential election is sufficient. In one particular week in July, the TRT gave
Erdogan more than twelve hours of airtime; Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the joint
candidate of the CHP and MHP, three hours; and Selahattin Demirtas, the
HDP candidate, only sixteen minutes.15 While using the TRT to disseminate
its own ideological narrative, the AKP also deployed the broadcast regulator,
RTUK, to penalize and marginalize critical views. As discussed in chapter 2,
since its establishment in 1994, the RTUK has always functioned as a politi-
cized institution able to penalize television and radio outlets for broadcasting
content that violates the national sovereignty, unity, and moral values of the
society or that defames the government or state institutions. As expected, the
AKP used the RTUK to punish its political foes and to suppress critical voices,
as seen in the recent fines it imposed during the Gezi protests and the corrup-
tion scandal. In June 2013, antigovernment television outlets (Ulusal TV, Halk
TV, Cem TV, and EM TV) were fined by the RTUK for their Gezi coverage
on charges of “encouraging audiences to violence, hatred and enmity” and
for broadcasting content that was allegedly “harmful for the physical, moral
and mental development of children and young people.” The outlets were
ordered to pay approximately $3,000 each as penalty—perhaps not a large
sum, but nonetheless significant in its symbolism.16 In early 2014, shortly
after the corruption scandal had erupted, 93 percent of all RTUK penalties
were levied on two Gulen-affiliated television channels—Samanyolu Haber
and STV—for their coverage of corruption, graft, and bribery charges. The
RTUK said these channels’ programs amounted to libel and slander and were
politically biased, but it is a well-known fact that the fines had been politi-
cally motivated since the channels are owned by the Gulenists—the AKP’s
onetime ally but current nemesis.17

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The Curbing of Individual Liberties
and the Remoralization of Society
The AKP’s tentative commitment to democracy and the myth of the Turkish
model can also be seen in the AKP’s monopolization of state power and in
its curbing of individual liberties, especially in alignment with its religious-
conservative vision. As Turam notes, the AKP’s strategies to “re-moralize
the society” have created widespread anxieties and have replaced earlier
fears of a top-down Islamicization (i.e., the enactment of sharia law, the
establishment of a theocracy) with fears of everyday, micro-level incursions
into individual liberties.18 Because the AKP has implemented much of its
Islam-inspired conservative agenda without any parliamentary debate or
social consensus but rather by monopolizing the state power and exploiting
its electoral majority, the AKP’s legislative actions have often been regarded
as incursions into liberties and have caused widespread bitterness among
the public. One such piece of legislation was the “education reform” bill that
the AKP pushed through Parliament in 2012. The bill decreased the age of
students admitted to preacher schools from fifteen to eleven and introduced
new religious education curricula such as Koran lessons or courses on the
life of Prophet Mohammad in regular public schools. Though the law was
criticized by opponents as a sign of the Islamicization of the education sys-
tem, it was nonetheless hailed by Erdogan, who had earlier expressed his
desire to “raise a pious generation.” According to Erdogan, the passing of
the law was a sign of the will of the “true owners of national sovereignty”
and of the “correction of the fascist pressures” [a reference to the military]
in the education system.19
Another controversial bill that the AKP passed—thanks to its sheer major-
ity in Parliament—concerned the sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages.
The 2013 law bans retailers from selling alcoholic beverages between 10 p.m.
and 6 a.m.; prevents alcoholic beverage companies from sponsoring sports
events and concerts and from advertising in the media; blocks restaurants
and cafes from acquiring liquor licenses if they are within 330 feet of a school
or a religious institution; and requires broadcasters to blur images of bottles
and glasses of alcohol consumed by TV characters.20
In addition to these bills, there have been other instances when the AKP has
endeavored to introduce other restrictive legislation but has had to backtrack
in the face of strong public reaction. For example, in 2004, a bill personally
supported by Erdogan was proposed by the AKP to criminalize adultery as a
means of “preserving family life.” However, this was the AKP’s first term; its
political power had not yet been firmly entrenched, and the EU was still able

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to exercise some leverage due to the ongoing membership negotiations. When
the proposal started coming under intense criticism from women’s groups
and EU officials, the proposal got shelved.21 Yet even this backtracking would
not stop Erdogan and AKP officials from “criticizing” certain practices that
they deemed to be against Muslim values or against the welfare of the Turkish
nation. Calling abortions and caesarean births “sinister plots” designed to
eradicate the Turkish nation, in 2012 Erdogan promised to pass legislation
that would ban them, saying: “I know all this is being done on purpose. I
know these are steps taken to prevent this country’s population from growing
further. I see abortion as murder. I say every abortion is an Uludere,” mak-
ing a reference to the killings of thirty-four Kurds in southeastern Turkey
by army jets.22 Though the characterizations were condemned by women’s
groups and even fueled a popular campaign using the slogan “My body, my
decision,” Erdogan’s remarks nonetheless found support among AKP of-
ficials. The then minister of health suggested that all women and even rape
victims should bear their children no matter how they were conceived, and
the AKP mayor of Ankara ventured that a mother who considers abortion
should “kill herself instead, and not let the child suffer from her mistake.”
Given the sharp criticisms from women’s groups, rights activists, and certain
opposition parties, the issue, in typical AKP fashion, was quietly shelved.
A year later, in a meeting with party officials, Erdogan would complain
about male and female students sharing dormitories and private houses; as
expected, he then called for state regulation, remarking: “Nobody knows
what takes place in those houses. All kinds of dubious things may happen.
Then, parents cry out, saying, ‘Where is the state?’ As a conservative, demo-
cratic government, we need to intervene.”23 Erdogan’s statement was backed
by a cabinet minister who claimed that mixed-student housing gave rise to
depravity, drug trafficking, prostitution, and terrorism and thus necessitated
government intervention. Although no specific legislation was ever actually
proposed, reports surfaced shortly after Erdogan’s speech that the police in
Istanbul had inspected several student houses and were asking neighbors
about the students and their comings and goings.24
The AKP’s remoralization efforts have also transpired in the fields of media
and cultural production. In hopes of prioritizing “family films,” the Ministry
of Culture and Tourism passed a decree in 2014 stripping government funds
from films rated 18+ and requiring private theater companies to return gov-
ernment funds if their productions are deemed to be in violation of “public
The AKP has also intensified its efforts to ensure that broadcast program-
ming is aligned with the “national and moral values of the community and

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Turkish family structure” and does not “impair the physical, mental, and
moral development of young people and children.” Among the content that
the AKP-dominated RTUK has found damaging are a music video in which
“two female artists are scantily clad, with half of their bodies seen naked in
the same bed”; a game show in which a female competitor uses “immoral
words” (“Baby, think of me with another man”) to motivate her spouse in
the competition; and a soap opera with lovemaking scenes that are “too hot
and too long” (five minutes and thirty seconds).26
In addition to protecting and preserving the AKP’s vision of religious
conservatism, the RTUK has also been preoccupied with blasphemy and
the protection of Islam. It fined a television channel for airing a political talk
show in which the guest allegedly “insulted the Prophet Muhammad,” made
remarks that were “insulting and injurious to society,” and “exceeded the
boundaries of freedom of expression.” Based on similar charges, the RTUK
also penalized another channel for airing an episode of The Simpsons that
allegedly “made fun of God.”27 Obviously, the imposition of strict and pur-
posefully vague provisions regarding religious offenses has not been limited
to broadcast content only. As discussed in chapter 6, the TIB and the BTK
(both partisan agencies) continue to block tens of thousands of websites, ban
certain “immoral” words from domain names, and filter online content to
adhere to certain cultural and religious norms. Concomitant with these de-
velopments, there has been an increase in the number of cases being opened
against individual users on charges of “offending the beliefs and feelings of
These restrictions bespeak not only of the sway of religious conservatism
but also of a growing intolerance of dissent and incursions into freedom of
speech. An obvious manifestation of this trend can be seen in recent court
cases opened against individuals on charges of “insulting Islam.” As discussed
in chapter 6, Fazil Say, Sedat Kapanoglu, and the user with the Twitter handle
@AllahCC have been prosecuted on the basis of their online writings. When
Amberin Zaman, a veteran journalist, made a comment on a political news
talk show in 2014 about Islam’s being more oriented toward the well-being
of the community than the rights of the individual, she was maligned by the
pro-AKP, Islamist press as a “Jewish bitch” and soon branded by Erdogan as
“a shameless woman [and] a militant in the guise of a journalist” since she
had allegedly “insulted a society that is 99% Muslim.”28
The hate speech directed at Zaman is unfortunately part of the broader
anti-Semitism prevalent in the Turkish public sphere. As noted in chapters
1 and 4, the hostility and prejudice directed at Jews, along with that directed
against other non-Muslim, non-Turkish minorities (such as Armenians,

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Greeks, and Kurds), has had a long history and is deeply linked with Turk-
ish nationalism—the state’s dominant ideology. In the summer of 2014, anti-
Semitism spiked once again, prompted by the Israeli-Hamas conflict and
the deaths of Palestinian civilians. With Erdogan comparing Israel to Hitler,
pro-government newspapers issuing “warnings” to the Jewish community
concerning the “very bad things that could happen” and the AKP’s “Twit-
ter army” posting messages praising Hitler, it would be naive to frame this
anti-Semitic wave as an idiosyncratic development or an ill-suited strategy
by Erdogan to shore up right-wing nationalist votes. It should rather be seen
as part of the Muslim nationalist paradigm that had been a potent force for
decades and is now being reinforced by the AKP. An important point to note
here is that this paradigm is predicated on the particular brand of Sunni Is-
lam long dedicated to the suppression of the Alevis, who are the heterodox
Muslims in Turkey making up 15–20 percent of the population. Much like the
hate speech he directed at Jews, the Sunni-favoring Erdogan has not refrained
from adopting a sectarian language intended to antagonize the Alevis.29
As the above examples illustrate, the AKP has been preoccupied with the
institution of religious conservative parameters (read: Sunni Muslim) in
fields that range from education to broadcasting. These endeavors not only
signal the reshaping of the public sphere along the AKP’s vision of a religious
society, but perhaps more importantly reveal the AKP’s intolerance of any
political and ideological views that are not its own.

The Continuation of the National Security Paradigm

Another manifestation of the AKP’s democratic shortcomings can be seen in
its approach toward civil liberties and specifically toward the Kurdish issue.
As discussed in chapters 1 and 3, the Turkish state, since its founding years,
has branded ethnic and religious identity claims as national security threats;
instituted repressive policies toward certain groups; and justified coercive and
often extrajudicial measures against these groups.30 In the 1980s and 1990s,
when Islamists and Kurds began to reenter the public sphere and intensify
their identity claims, the Kemalist state establishment, led by the military,
made regular interventions to “close off opportunity spaces” for these claims.31
Yet the state’s suppression was selective and contingent. As discussed earlier,
while the state had tolerated Islamist politics (though until the 1990s), it
adopted harsh military tactics toward the Kurds in southeastern provinces
and used the Constitutional Court to close Kurdish political parties one
after another. Despite these repressive activities by the state, however, the
Kurdish political community has been persistent in its demands for ethnic,

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political, and cultural rights. To these demands, the AKP responded in 2009
by initiating what is commonly referred to as the “Kurdish opening,” “the
democratic opening,” or “the peace process”—that is, steps the government
would take toward the demilitarization of the Kurdish issue. Though the
AKP also launched a consultation process with academics, policy makers,
civil society organizations, and some Kurdish politicians and opinion leaders,
it failed to produce a tangible roadmap for finding a democratic solution.
Yet despite its shortcomings regarding constitutional and legal reforms
to grant Kurds full ethnic rights, the efforts of the “Kurdish opening” were
welcomed by many, at least until a criminal case severely undermined this
process. As discussed in chapter 5, between 2009 and 2011, thousands of
Kurdish politicians, mayors, journalists, academics, and trade union and
human rights activists were rounded up in mass arrests and charged with
having links to the KCK. By the end of 2011, the number of those arrested
had reached an astounding four thousand.32 In 2013, the “Kurdish opening”
was somewhat resuscitated when the PKK’s imprisoned leader Ocalan made
a historic announcement about the PKK’s laying down their arms, and since
then a ceasefire between the Turkish Armed Forces and the PKK has been
in effect.
It is still too soon to interpret these developments as leading to a straight-
forward solution of the Kurdish issue. The Kurdish issue not only encom-
passes the armed conflict; it also involves the recognition of the ethnic, politi-
cal, and cultural rights of the Kurds, and this remains a contentious issue for
many Turks. Despite ongoing negotiations between the intelligence agency
and Ocalan, and the AKP’s promises of a democratic solution, Kurdish politi-
cal and cultural rights are still considered to be extremely touchy subjects.
It’s true that, compared to the tumultuous 1990s, the Kurdish issue is now
openly debated in the media and there are Kurdish courses offered in a few
schools. But the AKP still contains the Kurdish issue within those parameters
of acceptability established by the state. Three media-related events illustrate
this predisposition.
The first involved a meeting attended by media owners and executives that
had been convened by Erdogan in October 2011. At the meeting, Erdogan,
in ways reminiscent of what the high-level military officials had done in the
1990s, asked media executives to be “sensitive” in their coverage of acts of
terrorism and violence. He was, in effect, implying that a quasi gag order
needed to be imposed on the then-continuing armed conflict between the
PKK and the Turkish military. Yasemin Congar of Taraf newspaper, who
attended the meeting, expressed her disbelief the following day in her col-
umn: “What surprised me more than the Prime Minister’s suggestion to pay

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attention to the ‘line between the people’s right to know and to allow PKK
propaganda’ was the shared willingness among my colleagues to self-censor.”33
A few days after the closed-door meeting, the five major news agencies indeed
announced that they would abide by Erdogan’s “suggestions.”34
The second event transpired in December 2012 when the Turkish military
had bombed a convoy of Kurdish villagers crossing the Turkish-Iraqi border
in the remote village of Roboski in southeastern Turkey.35 The bombing, now
referred to as the “Roboski massacre,” killed thirty-four Kurds on the night of
December 28 around 9:30 p.m. The incident would not make the news until
the following afternoon, though the Kurdish Dicle News Agency did break
the story through their site around 2 a.m. Mainstream news channels, how-
ever, chose to remain silent until an official statement had been issued. The
government statement, which came around 1 p.m., asserted that the Turkish
Armed Forces had acted on intelligence that claimed that the border-crossing
group had included PKK fighters and that this was what had prompted the
bombing. The fact that the initial media blackout had been followed only
by limited coverage toeing the official state narrative stands as testament to
the sway of the nationalist-statist ethos, both in the policies of the AKP and
in the media discourse overall. As a Kurdish journalist who now works at
an independently owned television channel put it: “When it comes to Kurds
and the Kurdish issue, the Turkish media continues its traditional function:
that of concealment, distortion, propagandizing (on behalf of the state) and
therefore cordoning off the public sphere and preventing the airing of Kurds’
legitimate demands.”36
The third event took place in March 2013 when the mainstream daily
Milliyet published the minutes of a meeting that was held between Ocalan
and representatives from the Kurdish BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) as
part of the “peace process.” While the contents of the minutes would not be
denied by government officials or those in attendance, Erdogan nevertheless
harshly criticized Milliyet for ignoring Turks’ “national sensitivities” and as a
result destabilizing the peace process by its publishing of state secrets. Namik
Durukan, the reporter who broke the story, and Milliyet’s editor-in-chief,
Derya Sazak, said the article served public interest and defended its publi-
cation. When Milliyet’s prominent columnist Hasan Cemal wrote in their
defense that politicians should mind their own business and leave journalism
to journalists, Erdogan leashed out and said, “Damn your journalism!” A
few weeks later Cemal was dismissed.
The backstory of Milliyet’s acquiescence would be revealed a year later in
2014 when an audio file of a phone conversation between Erdogan and the
paper’s proprietor was leaked on social media. In the audiotape, Milliyet’s

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owner, Demiroren is heard taking a direct call from Erdogan and asking him,
“Have I upset you, boss?” Erdogan then unleashes his fury on Demiroren as
he calls the publication of the above-mentioned story a “dishonorable act”
and the reporter who broke it a “vile, crooked, and a wicked man.” Demiro-
ren painstakingly tries to soothe Erdogan and asks, “What should we do?”
Erdogan replies, “Do whatever is necessary.” The conversation goes on for
a few more minutes as Demiroren assures Erdogan he will find whoever is
responsible, implying that there will be consequences. He tells Erdogan, “I
will find out by tonight. Don’t you worry,” and finally breaks into tears: “Why
have I entered this business?” Beyond the tragicomical nature of its content,
this conversation exposes one of the key issues that plague Turkey’s media
system: that reporters, journalists, and publishers are expected to prioritize
state interests above all and not to cross the lines drawn by the power hold-
ers, and if they do, they should be prepared to pay the price.

The Perpetuation of an Antidemocratic

Media System
Undoubtedly, Turkey’s media system, which had been beset by clientelism,
conglomeration, and politicization since the 1980s, deteriorated further dur-
ing the AKP regime. As discussed in chapters 5 and 6, this deterioration
occurred as result of the reshuffling of media ownership structures, imprison-
ment of an unusually high number of journalists, exploitation of broadcast,
Internet, and press laws to silence oppositional voices, partisan appointments
in state-run media outlets, and imposition of stricter regulations on the In-
ternet and social media. After the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal,
the AKP amped up its efforts to confine the already-restricted public sphere
and began to mix hard and soft tools of repression. A troubling trend, for
example, is the legal hounding not only of journalists but also of ordinary
citizens based on defamation, blasphemy, or terrorism charges. Since 2014,
Erdogan has filed lawsuits against seventy individuals including journalists,
a former Miss Turkey, high school and university students, and political
activists on charges that they insulted him and the “high and unshakeable
reputation of the President . . . and the state’s spiritual personality, consti-
tutional institutions and legal personality.”37 In 2015, two cartoonists from a
humor magazine received prison sentences, later converted to a fine, because
of their unfavorable depiction of Erdogan. A local journalist in southeast
Turkey was sentenced for simply “liking” a Facebook post that criticized
Erdogan. The courts also brought charges against a Dutch freelance journal-
ist, Frederike Geerdink, who had lived and worked in Turkey since 2006, for

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her online column and social media posts that allegedly made “propaganda
for the PKK,” and against a local journalist, Sedef Kabas, for her tweet that
allegedly targeted and threatened a prosecutor. Another troubling trend is the
government’s retooling of the accreditation system to hinder certain media
outlets’ access to government officials or events, and the courts’ issuing of
media gag orders to prevent the reporting of critical political developments.38
The AKP’s use of such tactics echoes the practices of authoritarian regimes
around the world. In their analysis, Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman point
to similarities across contemporary authoritarian regimes’ media strategies.
They note that such regimes do not “abolish commercial press” or “use brute
force” against dissidents. Instead they focus on “information management,”
which involves the “co-optation of the elite and private media” so as to prevent
the dissemination of negative messages, the dissemination of information
about “the competence of the ruling leader, effective government and eco-
nomic prosperity” via state-run or partisan commercial media, the “bribing
and censoring of the press” via carrots and sticks, the harassing and defaming
of political opponents and the imposition of legal penalties to encourage
Obviously, one cannot deny the role of the AKP government and its proxies
in courts and state institutions in the deployment of the above-mentioned
media strategies. Yet it is also imperative to note the complicity of a number
of media proprietors, high-level executives, and prominent columnists (es-
pecially in the mainstream) in the degeneration of Turkey’s media system.
As has been detailed throughout this book, beginning in the 1980s, Turkey’s
media system has come to be dominated by economic elites, who, by and
large, have circulated Kemalist, pro-military discourse as per their politi-
cal economic alliances. In the first decade of the twenty-first century and
beyond, the elite domination continued to condition the media landscape,
though with critical changes. With the crumbling of the military-bureaucratic
establishment, media proprietors shifted their alliances, with most of them
beginning to toe the AKP line (to varying degrees) for survival (and growth)
in their nonmedia ventures.

Lack of Journalistic Solidarity

In the face of ever-increasing pressures from the government, one would
assume that media professionals stand in solidarity against Erdogan and
AKP officials. Unfortunately, the media field in Turkey is so beset by political
polarization and intra-elite conflicts that professional solidarity is shockingly
nonexistent. As per their bosses’ political economic alliances, journalists often

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end up defending and excusing political leaders, parties, and ideologies they
support (or worse they do so to please their bosses), and in the process they
attack colleagues who happen to be on the other side. Therefore the debates
between journalists, be it via newspaper columns or political talk shows,
transpire from the need to be effective proxies of political factions they sup-
port, reflecting personal acrimonies. As I show in chapter 5, the astounding
levels of politicization (and therefore lack of professional solidarity) among
the journalistic community revealed itself during the Ergenekon trials in
2011. Gulen-affiliated and pro-government outlets tried to justify the arrests
by arguing that the journalists behind bars were in fact pro-military, coup-
minded agents, not journalists.
Approximately four years later, in an ironic twist of fate, Gulen-affiliated
outlets found themselves decrying the AKP’s media crackdown. In December
2014, twenty-three media professionals from a Gulenist newspaper and televi-
sion channel were arrested on charges of “forming an illegal organization and
attempting to take control of the state.” Among them were Ekrem Dumanli,
the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Hidayet Karaca, the chairman of Samanyolu
TV, and reporters, producers, and scriptwriters.40 As the police were detain-
ing Dumanli and others, the staff of Zaman newspaper were chanting, “Free
press cannot be silenced,” and rightly so. The arrests were purely political and
driven by Erdogan’s not-so-secret plan to eliminate Gulen-affiliated schools,
banks, businesses, civic organizations, and media outlets. In the days fol-
lowing the arrests, other Gulen-affiliated journalists offered commentary to
Western media about the AKP’s notorious record on press freedoms; Gulen
adherents flooded social media with similar messages, and Dumanli, upon
his release, penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, titled “Turkey’s Witch
Hunt against Media.”41 The fact that Dumanli, Zaman, and by extension the
Gulen community had now become champions of a free press was met with
disbelief on the part of several journalists in Turkey. Some even contended
that Dumanli and the Gulen community were finally paying for their sins—a
reference to their endorsing and legitimizing the imprisonment of journal-
ists as part of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials. Although a flicker of
solidarity appeared when some journalists signed a petition condemning the
arrests, ill feelings and questions lingered concerning Dumanli’s and Gulen
media group’s honesty. Once again, the deep politicization had prevented
the unconditional condemnation of journalists’ arrests.
The limits of journalistic solidarity and support for press freedoms soon
came to be tested again, this time as result of the January 2015 attack on the
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The murders of Charlie Hebdo
cartoonists sparked heated debates in Turkey not only about radical Islam
but also about free speech. Secular and progressive journalists denounced

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the attack and adopted the Je Suis Charlie slogan as an expression of their
stance on free speech, while their pro-AKP and Islamist colleagues argued
that Charlie Hebdo had crossed the line between free speech and offending
religious sensitivities. Some even blamed the cartoonists for inviting the
attack and suggested that the attack was a false flag operation carried out
by Western powers in order to justify further clampdown on the Muslim
community. The debate on free speech issues, threaded with religious-con-
servative ideology, soon took on a new dimension when the secular daily
Cumhuriyet announced its plans to reprint the post-attack cover of Charlie
Hebdo to express solidarity. However, faced with possible legal action and
following hundreds of death threats on its staff, Cumhuriyet decided to pub-
lish excerpts from Charlie Hebdo’s special issue but not its cover with the
Mohammad cartoon. In a Twitter statement, the paper’s editor-in-chief said:
“As part of our solidarity, we have published four pages of Charlie Hebdo
cartoons in our special issue. However, as per our principles, we have been
delicate regarding freedom of religion and religious sensitivities. We have not
put the cover page in our issue.”42 On the day of the special issue, Istanbul
police searched the printing press that produces Cumhuriyet and allowed
distribution only after making sure the paper was free of the controversial
Mohammad cartoons. Two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya,
however, had included the said cartoons in their columns in that same issue,
and now they face up to four and a half years in prison for “inciting hatred
among the public” and “insulting people’s religious beliefs.”43

Toward a New Turkey?

Since its rise to power in 2002, the AKP has espoused contradictory policies
in the fields of politics, economics, and media. It has defined itself as the
promoter of democratic consolidation while at the same time it has limited
its notion of democracy to that of a simple majoritarian rule. It has under-
taken some steps toward a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue, but it
has also promoted a centralized, statist, and intolerant approach toward the
Kurds’ political demands. Because of the benefits accrued by the military-
bureaucratic elite and statist middle classes, it has positioned itself against
the state-led modernization program, but it has still not hesitated to cultivate
its own economic elite via control of state-owned banks, privatization deals,
tax subsidies, and the like. While Erdogan and his associates have projected
themselves as carriers of EU-harmonization (at least during their first term
in office), they have also not shied away from exploiting all available anti-EU,
anti-Western, and nationalist anxieties when such exploitation suited their
political needs. They have (rightly) criticized the pro-military, pro-statist

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media discourse, but they have not undertaken a radical revision of existing
regulatory institutions, nor have they instituted reforms to democratize me-
dia ownership structures. Instead, they have applied political, economic, and
legal pressures on media outlets to silence critical voices and foster their own
partisan bloc, thus worsening an already politicized, elite-dominated, and
antidemocratic media system. Sadly, the repression of all forms of political
dissent in public and media spheres, the mixing of hard and soft tactics to
suppress media workers, the accusing of critical voices of wanting to create
chaos and divide the country, and the convicting of journalists and activ-
ists on charges of defamation and blasphemy have become all too normal.
Kurdish journalists continue to make up the majority of those behind bars
on charges of terrorism, mainstream media is plagued by its own clientelism,
and the anti-AKP media outlets misguidedly portray their pro-military, statist
discourse as support for democracy. A few critical outlets, mostly left-leaning,
continue to undertake journalism in the public interest although with limited
resources and small circulation.
In the aftermath of the Gezi protests and the corruption scandal, there
has been a marked increase in warnings about Turkey’s detour into authori-
tarianism.44 These warnings only multiplied after Erdogan’s ascent to the
presidency in August 2014. During his election campaign, Erdogan constantly
portrayed himself as the “true representative of the people” and spoke of the
significance of the “ballot box”—a term he often uses to imply that he is a
legitimate leader because of majority support he garners at the polls. Erdo-
gan’s statements (both before and after his election victory) about his intent
to institute a new presidential system and complete the transition to a New
Turkey have led to concerns that checks and balances will be eliminated and
the country will turn into a one-man rule à la Vladimir Putin. Indeed, shortly
after becoming president, Erdogan shed the hitherto ceremonial role of his
new post and assumed the duties of the prime minister, such as convening
cabinet meetings in his presidential palace and issuing statements (and at
times directives) concerning foreign and economic policy and the Kurdish
peace process.
As seen in the analyses of changes and continuities between the post-1980
era and the years 2002–2015, the AKP consolidated the state-centric political
culture, entrenched the existing patronage structures in the economy while
pursuing a neoliberal agenda, and prioritized a nationalist, Islamist ideology
at the expense of polarizing the society. Whatever change the AKP has ac-
complished in politics, media, and the economy has not been geared toward
progressive ideals to promote equality, diversity, and pluralism but has simply
served to maintain the country’s longstanding authoritarian neoliberal order.

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When I completed this book in May 2015, Turkey was gearing up for
general elections. Erdogan was divisive and polarizing as ever as he tried to
energize the AKP’s voter base (despite his supposedly bipartisan position as
the president), tapping into Muslim nationalist sentiments and portraying
his new political rival, the pro-Kurdish HDP (Halklarin Demokrat Partisi—
People’s Democratic Party), as a threat to state sovereignty. Yet the outcome
of June 7 elections was a huge disappointment for Erdogan. For the first time
since 2002, the AKP had not been able to secure a parliamentary majority.
It had still garnered 40 percent of the votes, but with the entry of the HDP
into the Parliament (also a historic first for a pro-Kurdish party), it no longer
had the outright majority to change the constitution and pave the way to
Erdogan’s super-presidency.
As opposition parties and especially the HDP voters (a broad alliance of
Kurds, liberals, women, LGBT individuals, and leftists) celebrated the election
results, Turkey began to discuss various options for a coalition government.
While talks dragged on, an ISIS bomb attack killed thirty-three activists in late
July in Suruc, a town near the border with Syria. The activists had gathered
to lend a helping hand to Syrian Kurds so they could rebuild their war-torn
town of Kobane.1 The attack not only illustrated how the Syrian conflict had
crept over to Turkey with deadly consequences, but it also signaled the end
of the peace process that had been in the making for years between the Turk-
ish state and the PKK. The following weeks witnessed violent clashes in the
predominantly Kurdish southeast while Erdogan insisted that the AKP was
the only capable actor to restore stability to the country. To his opponents,
Erdogan was intentionally stoking the anti-Kurdish sentiment to discredit

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the HDP and win back a parliamentary majority.2 In August, Erdogan an-
nounced that talks to form a coalition government had failed, and he called
snap elections.3
As Turkey was getting ready to go to the polls a second time in five months,
the escalating violence was claiming more and more lives from both sides—
Turkish security officers and Kurdish rebels. In September, tensions grew
when nationalist groups attacked the HDP headquarters in several cities,
and in October, an ISIS twin suicide bomb attack killed 102 people at a peace
rally in Ankara. The AKP blamed the PKK and leftist militant organizations
for the attack; opposition parties claimed Erdogan was trying to scare voters
to back his party’s “security and stability platform,” and in the meantime, the
media field was experiencing a worsening situation of its own.4
During the period between July and September 2015, courts and govern-
ment agencies blocked more than 100 websites, 40 Twitter accounts, and
some 180 URL-based news stories. Forty-nine media workers (journalists,
reporters, distributors), most of whom were from Kurdish publications and
news agencies, were detained on terrorism charges. Dozens of individuals
were sued by Erdogan for defamation.5 In September, Frederike Geerdink,
a Dutch freelance journalist, was deported for allegedly aiding Kurdish
militants.6 Two British journalists with Vice News were arrested and then
released on similar charges, although their Iraqi colleague Mohammad Ra-
sool remained imprisoned for 131 days.7 That same month, the daily Hurriyet
attracted the ire of Erdogan for distorting his words in an online post and was
consequently attacked by a group of pro-AKP supporters who threw stones,
smashed windows, and attempted to storm the building. They were accusing
the publication of advocating for the PKK and the HDP. In October, Ahmet
Hakan, a prominent columnist with Hurriyet and TV host at sister CNNTurk,
was assaulted by a pro-AKP group and was left with a broken nose and ribs.8
The AKP also amped up its attack on media companies affiliated with Gulen,
its arch enemy. Under government pressure, state-owned TURKSAT (Turk-
ish Satellite Communications Corporation) and online streaming services
dropped several TV channels owned by Feza and Samanyolu. The AKP went
a step further in October and seized two newspapers and two TV channels
owned by Koza Ipek, another Gulen-affiliated conglomerate. Based on flimsy
charges of “terror financing, terror propaganda and financial irregularities,”
the AKP-appointed trustees took over the management of these outlets, fired
dozens of personnel, and overnight created government mouthpieces.9
On November 1, 2015, Turkey held its second general elections in five
months. The AKP won the parliamentary majority it had desperately sought,
and it formed a new government. Emboldened by its win, it quickly moved

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to have two prominent journalists, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul of the daily
Cumhuriyet, arrested on charges of “aiding and abetting a terrorist orga-
nization, revealing state secrets, and spying.” Back in May 2015, the paper
had published a story with accompanying documentation about intelligence
agency trucks carrying weapons and ammunition to Syrian rebels. Erdogan’s
response to the story was typical. He blamed the journalists of spying and
sullying Turkey’s image and vowed that he would make Dundar pay a heavy
price. “I won’t let him get away with this,” he said.10
Unfortunately, it is not only Dundar who is paying a heavy price. In a coun-
try where information is suppressed, government propaganda is everywhere,
and the lines between truth and fiction are blurred, everyone is paying a heavy
price. I must admit that I am finishing this book with a heavy heart, yet I want
to be hopeful. That I can do as I watch the Kurds, feminists, environmental-
ists, human rights activists, LGBT organizations, citizen journalists, and civic
initiatives (such as Oy ve Otesi, a vote-monitoring NGO, and Dogruluk Payi,
Turkey’s first fact-checking organization) work tirelessly every single day for
a more democratic country. I hope I get to tell their stories soon.

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1. “What in the World.”
2. For a criticism of this narrative, see Meyersson and Rodrik, “Erdogan’s Coup.”
3. Parkinson, “Turkey’s Economy Keeps Humming,” Spencer and Zalewski, “Tur-
key’s Ruling Party.”
4. During AKP rule, GDP per capita has increased from approximately $3,500
in 2002 to $10,000 in 2012. This increase was interpreted by the AKP as the tripling
of the Turkish economy and became a recurring talking point in much of Western
media coverage. However, when evaluated in real (as opposed to nominal) terms, the
GDP growth was 38 percent. See Meyersson, “Illiberal Pull in Turkey, “and “Tired
of Bad Talking Points.”
5. M. Lee, “Clinton Eyes Turkey.”
6. Kliman and Fontaine, “Global Swing Sates.”
7. As Bugra and Savaskan note, the Turkish economy was faced with two major
issues: high unemployment rates (around 10 percent between 2002 and 2008, 14
percent in 2009, 11 percent in 2010, 9 percent in 2011 and 2012) and a significant cur-
rent account deficit (9 percent in 2011). Despite these figures, which were worryingly
high in comparison to most OECD members, the Turkish economy and the AKP’s
economic policies were nonetheless viewed in a positive light due to the accelerated
privatization program, increasing foreign direct investment and steady capital inflows.
See Bugra and Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey, 64–66.
8. Bugralilar, “Prisoners of Democracy.” In 2014, the problem of overcrowded
prisons worsened as the number of inmates rose to 159,475. See “Buildup in Turkey’s
Prison Population.”
9. Beiser, “Second Worst Year,” 2013.
10. Kasaba and Bozdogan, Rethinking Modernity; Keyman, Remaking Turkey; Ok-

Yesil_Text.indd 147 5/13/16 12:10 PM

tem, Kerslake and Robins, Turkey’s Engagement with Modernity; Gocek, Transforma-
tion of Turkey.
11. On Islam, secularism, and democracy, see Navaro-Yashin, Faces of the State;
Yavuz and Esposito, Turkish Islam; Turam, Between Islam and the State; Yavuz, Secu-
larism and Muslim Democracy; Cizre, Secular and Islamic Politics; Atasoy, Turkey,
Islamists and Democracy; and Kuru and Stepan, Democracy, Islam and Secularism.
On Islam and nationalism, see White, Muslim Nationalism. On Islam and capital-
ism, see Tugal, Passive Revolution. On militaristic ideology, see Altinay, Myth of the
Military Nation. On capitalism and authoritarian neoliberal hegemony, see Bugra and
Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey; Akca, Bekmen, and Ozden, Turkey Reframed.
On the Kurdish issue, see Olson, Kurdish Nationalist Movement; Kirisci and Winrow,
Kurdish Question and Turkey; Natali, Kurds and the State; Ozcan, Turkey’s Kurds; Ka-
dioglu and Keyman, Symbiotic Antagonisms. On the protests, see Ozkirimli, Making
of a Protest Movement; and Yalcintas, Creativity and Humor in Occupy Movements.
12. Catalbas, “Broadcasting Deregulation in Turkey”; Algan, “Privatization of Ra-
dio”; Tunc, “Faustian Acts in Turkish Style”; Christensen, “Breaking the News”; Yumul
and Ozkirimli, “Reproducing the Nation”; Bek, “Tabloidization of News Media.”
13. Turkish Studies 11, no. 4 (2010).
14. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 5, no. 3 (2012).
15. Akdenizli, Digital Transformations in Turkey.
16. Television takes the lion’s share of advertising expenditures. In 2013, 57 per-
cent of ad spending went to television outlets, whereas newspapers received only 20
percent. See Celikcan, “2013 Yili Reklam Verileriyle Turkiye.”
17. Ibid.
18. Yesil, “Transnationalization of Turkish Dramas.”
19. According to latest data available, the circulation number of national papers in
2015 was at 4.5 million (Turkey’s population is 75 million). Also, a 2015 survey found
that only 12 percent of the population regularly read print newspapers, and 22 percent
read web editions. See “Turkiye’nin Medya Tuketim Aliskanliklari.”
20. The share of television ad spending in the first half of 2014 was 58 percent,
newspapers 19 percent, and digital 18 percent. See “Medya Yatirimlari 2014 Yilinin
Ilk.” Overall Internet revenues are forecast to grow from $2.72 billion in 2012 to $7.25
billion in 2017. See “Turkey’s Entertainment and Media Sector.”
21. Herman and McChesney, Global Media; Artz and Kamalipour, Globalization
of Corporate Media Hegemony; Papathanassopoulos, “Media Commercialization and
Journalism in Greece”; Winseck, “State of Media Ownership.”
22. M. Christensen, “Notes on the Public Sphere.”
23. Agbaba et al., Kalemi Kirilan Gazeteciler.
24. Feza and Samanyolu are the exceptions here. They are not formally under the
control of nonmedia conglomerates but nonetheless have informal business connec-
tions with other Islamic companies.
25. Yesil, “Press Censorship in Turkey.”
26. Akyol, Islam without Extremes; Turam, Between Islam and the State.

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27. Gocek, “Through a Glass Darkly”; Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish National-
ism”; Yegen, “Turkish State Discourse”; Ahmad, Making of Modern Turkey; Keyman,
“Rethinking the ‘Kurdish Question’”; Turam, Between Islam and the State; White,
Muslim Nationalism.
28. Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections.”
29. I am drawing on Duncan McCargo’s analysis of the political role of media in
Southeast Asian countries. See McCargo, “Partisan Polyvalence.”
30. Matar, “Rethinking the Arab State,” 133.
31. Patton, “Economic Policies.”
32. Grigoriadis and Kamaras, “Foreign Direct Investment in Turkey.”
33. Committee to Protect Journalists, “Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis”; Oktem,
Angry Nation.
34. Keyman, “AK Party,” 29–30.
35. Diamond, “Facing up to the Democratic Recession.”
36. Zakaria, “Rise of Illiberal Democracy.”
37. Diamond, “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes.”
38. I am grateful to Cemal Burak Tansel for directing my attention to the literature
on this topic.
39. Bruff, “Rise of Authoritarian Neoliberalism,” 115.
40. I am drawing on Gholam Khiabany’s argument about the dual role of the state
in the context of Iran. See Khiabany, Iranian Media.
41. Akca, “Hegemonic Projects in Post-1980 Turkey.”
42. McCargo, Media and Politics; McCargo, “Partisan Polyvalence.”
43. Harvey, New Imperialism.
44. Vartanova, “Russian Media Model”; C. Lee, “State, Capital, and Media”; Park,
Kim and Sohn, “Modernization, Globalization, and the Powerful State”; McCargo,
Media and Politics; Waisbord, Watchdog Journalism in South America.
45. Diamond, “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes”; Zakaria, “Rise of Illiberal De-
mocracy”; Voltmer , “How Far Can Media Systems Travel?”
46. Walker and Orttung, “Breaking the News”; Vartanova, “Russian Media Model”;
Vartanova, “Russian Media Model.”
47. Mosco, Political Economy of Communication, 24.
48. Golding and Murdock, “Culture, Communications and Political Economy.”
49. Mosco, Political Economy of Communication, 2.
50. Tansel, “Politics of Contemporary Capitalism”; Akca, Bekmen and Ozden,
Turkey Reframed.
51. Bugra and Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey, 170.
52. I conducted fifty-six unstructured interviews in 2013 and 2014 over the course
of two research trips to Turkey, though in this book I do not use direct quotes from
each and every one of them. At the time I conducted most of the interviews (sum-
mer 2013, winter 2014), government and corporate pressures on media professionals
were rather high, and anonymity was of utmost importance to the interviewees.
As a matter of fact, when I was in Istanbul during the Gezi protests in 2013, some

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media professionals expressed serious concerns about talking to me at all. On the
other hand, a few were defiant, such as one journalist who had been released from
prison recently, and two Kurdish journalists who had experienced the worst of state
intimidation in the 1990s and had nothing to fear. Although they said I could use
their names, I nonetheless assured them that I would not, because I wish to treat all
interviewees equally and maintain all information confidential.
53. Harvey, New Imperialism.

Chapter 1. Politics and Culture in Turkey

1. In the late nineteenth century, in order to “catch up” with the West, the Otto-
man Empire initiated a series of reforms that ranged from revamping the military
to reorganizing political and civil institutions. Whether some continuity had been
maintained between the late nineteenth-century Ottoman and the early twentieth-
century Kemalist reforms is a matter of debate. On the one hand, it is argued that
the two sets of reforms imposed modernity from above, since (1) both had been
driven by the bureaucratic and the military elite as opposed to being driven from a
bourgeoisie demanding greater political participation, and (2) both aimed to emulate
European practices and to secularize the state’s legal basis of authority. On the other
hand, scholars argue that Ottoman and Kemalist reforms were decidedly dissimi-
lar, primarily because the latter helped drive the citizens toward a much stronger
interest in nationalism, secularism, and Western modernity agendas. For a detailed
discussion of the continuities and dissimilarities between Ottoman and Republican
modernization efforts, see Meeker, “Meaning and Society”; Mardin, “Projects as
Methodology”; Jung, “Sevres Syndrome”; Park, Modern Turkey; Turam, Between
Islam and the State, Zurcher, Turkey.
2. Gole, “Quest for the Islamic Self ”; Heper and Keyman, “Double-Faced State”;
Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections.”
3. Gocek, “Through a Glass Darkly.”
4. Jung, “Sevres Syndrome.”
5. The word “genocide” is still a taboo for many Turks. Turkish authorities vehe-
mently deny that the Ottoman Empire intentionally cleared Anatolia of approximately
one million Armenians during World War I. Instead they argue that the Ottoman
government had no choice but to deport the Armenians to secure eastern Anatolia
in the face of attacks by Armenian revolutionary groups. They claim that the “events”
of 1915–1916 were triggered by these groups and their European conspirators. For
more information on the Armenian genocide, see Akcam, Young Turks’ Crime against
Humanity; Gocek, Denial of Violence; Kevorkian, Armenian Genocide; and Rogan,
Fall of the Ottomans.
6. Gocek, “Through a Glass Darkly”; White, Muslim Nationalism; Oktem, An-
gry Nation; Cizre, “Demythologizing the National Security Concept.” In 2013, the
Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos revealed that the Turkish state has been assigning
“codes” to Jewish, Greek, and Armenian minorities in their national identity cards.

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7. Mardin, “Projects as Methodology,” 71; Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections,”
13; Kasaba, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities.”
8. Keyman, “Rethinking the ‘Kurdish Question,’” 471.
9. Navaro-Yashin, Faces of the State, 49; Gocek, “Through a Glass Darkly”; Yegen,
“Turkish Nationalism,” 126.
10. The population exchange expelled the Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians
while admitting the Balkan Muslims to Turkey. Though these Muslims were of Slavic
and not Turkish origin, their Muslim identity was nevertheless used as basis for their
“Turkification.” As Mesut Yegen notes, this Turkification process had been intended to
direct attention to the place of “religiosity in the definition of Turkishness.” At the same
time, it illustrates the “striking inconsistency” of the republic’s nationalist and secularist
policies, especially “if one thinks of the determined secularist policies followed in the
early years of the Republic.” See Yegen, “Citizenship and Ethnicity in Turkey,” 58. The
Settlement Law of 1934 was presented as an attempt to settle the nomadic (Kurdish)
tribes, yet its aim was to reorganize the demographic composition of the country and
assimilate the Kurds. See Yegen, “Citizenship and Ethnicity in Turkey,” 56.
11. Kasaba, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities,” 28. Ayse Bugra notes
that the Wealth Tax shattered the economic standing of minorities, from businessmen
to shopkeepers. Tax payments were determined according to the religious faith of
taxpayers, with Muslims paying less than non-Muslims and converts. See Bugra, State
and Business, 114–115. On Kurdish revolts see Mardin, “Center-Periphery Relations”;
Yegen, “Turkish State Discourse.”
12. As Serif Mardin notes, in the Ottoman Empire, Islam functioned both as reli-
gion and as life-world. Through ulamas, madrasas, and pious foundations and Sufi
orders, Islam provided non-institutional links between the state and the populace.
See Mardin, “Projects as Methodology,” 72.
13. Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish Nationalism,” 186.
14. Keyman, “Rethinking the ‘Kurdish Question,’” 470.
15. Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish Nationalism,” 41; Cizre, “Parameters and Strate-
16. White, Muslim Nationalism; Turam, Between Islam and the State.
17. Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections,” 16.
18. Ibid.
19. White, Muslim Nationalism.
20. Mardin, “Center-Periphery Relations,” 183; Ahmad, Making of Modern Turkey;
Mardin, Religion, Society and Modernity, 218.
21. Navaro-Yashin, Faces of the State, 48.
22. Mardin, “Center-Periphery Relations,” 182–184; Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish
Nationalism;” Kasaba, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities,” 30.
23. Ahiska, Occidentalism in Turkey.
24. Ibid.
25. On Pakistan see International Media Support, “Media in Pakistan,” 15. On
Egypt see Abu-Lughod, Dramas of Nationhood, 7–10.

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26. Amin, “Mass Media in the Arab States,” 30.
27. Keyder, “Whither the Project of Modernity?”
28. Ibid., 40.
29. Turan, “Two Steps Forward.”
30. Heper and Keyman, “Double-Faced State,” 260–261.
31. Keyder, “Whither the Project of Modernity?” 42; Gulalp, “Modernization Poli-
cies and Islamist Politics,” 55.
32. Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish Nationalism,” 187; Gocek, “Through a Glass
Darkly.” For detailed analysis of the Sheik Said rebellion, see Olson, Emergence of
Kurdish Nationalism.
33. Baer, “Islam and Politics,” 18.
34. Mardin, “Center-Periphery Relations,” 182–184.
35. Keyman, “Rethinking the ‘Kurdish Question.’”
36. Keyman and Icduygu, “Citizenship, Identity and the Question”; Navaro-Yashin,
Faces of the State.
37. By 1979, economic growth had stalled, income distribution had turned against
urban workers and the peasantry, and the inflation rate had reached 90 percent. See
Celasun and Rodrik, “Turkish Experience with Debt,” 267–268.
38. Ibid., 195.
39. Pamuk, “24 Ocak Sonrasinda Iktisat Politikalari.”
40. As a matter of fact, in the immediate aftermath of the adoption of the economic
reform package, Turkey received more than one billion dollars in loans in April 1980.
See Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 127.
41. Throughout the 1970s, Turkey was convulsing with assassinations, strikes, and
street violence between radical left and right. Prompted by escalating political tur-
moil, the chief of general staff issued a memorandum in March 1971 and demanded
the formation of a “strong and credible government that would be able to end the
anarchy and carry out reforms in a Kemalist spirit.” The memorandum, which was
prompted by the specter of communism, eventually led to a witch hunt against
the left and the arrests of thousands of university professors, journalists, and trade
unionists. See Zurcher, Turkey, 258.
42. Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 128.
43. The United States expressed its support to the Turkish Armed Forces and an-
nounced that economic loans would be available, while European countries expressed
concern and urged the military to transfer power to civilian rule as soon as possible.
See Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 140.
44. Turan, “Two Steps Forward,” 43–66.
45. Zurcher, Turkey, 279–316.
46. Kalaycioglu, Turkish Dynamics, 128–136; Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and De-
mocracy, 148–149.
47. The relief agreements and creditor support during this period helped the bal-
ance of trade to improve and exports to rise. The inflation rate decreased from 100

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percent to 35 percent, while deficits of the state enterprises went down from 8 per-
cent of the GDP to 2 percent. An undeniably significant actor in Turkey’s economic
transformation was the United States, which provided nearly 1 billion dollars in
assistance (third after Israel and Egypt), especially at a time when the European
Parliament had stopped all financial aid to Turkey. See Celasun and Rodrik, “Turk-
ish Experience with Debt.”
48. Bugra, State and Business, 142.
49. Kepenek, 12 Eylul’un Ekonomi Politigi.
50. Oktem, Angry Nation, 67.
51. Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and Democracy, 149. Also see Parla, “Mercantile Mili-
tarism in Turkey”; Heper, “State, Political Party and Society.”
52. Bugra, State and Business, 154.
53. Oktem, Angry Nation, 68–69; Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and Democracy, 149.
54. Emrence, “After Neo-Liberal Globalization”; Gulalp, “Modernization Policies
and Islamist Politics,” 56; Oktem, Angry Nation, 71; Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and
Democracy, 149.
55. Kasaba, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities,” 17.
56. Ataman, “Ozal Leadership and Restructuring.”
57. Zurcher, Turkey, 292.
58. On the use of Islam see Kalaycioglu, Turkish Dynamics, 128–136; Atasoy, Turkey,
Islamists and Democracy, 148–149. On the social base see Gulalp, “Modernization
Policies and Islamist Politics,” 52.
59. Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections,” 17.
60. Yavuz, “Turkish Identity,” 31. Also see Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim Democ-
racy; Atasoy, Turkey, Islamists and Democracy, 148–149. It is also important to note
that the Islamist press or broadcast media did not emerge as a homogenous entity but
diverged (and continues to do so) among themselves with respect to their ideological,
political, sectarian or brotherhood affiliations.
61. Gulen left Turkey in 1999 when he was accused of reactionary actions against
the Turkish Republic and its secular regime. He has lived in the United States since
62. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 181–183.
63. Hendrick, “Media Wars and the Gulen Factor.”
64. Ibid.
65. Ataman, “Ozal Leadership and Restructuring.”
66. Jung, “Sevres Syndrome.”
67. Cornell, “Kurdish Question in Turkish Politics,” 31.
68. Kirisci and Winrow, The Kurdish Question and Turkey, 278.
69. Kasaba, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities,” 17.
70. Ataman, “Ozal Leadership and Restructuring,” 123–142.
71. Gulalp, “Modernization Policies and Islamist Politics,” 52–56; Keyder, “Whither
the Project of Modernity?,” 48; Arat, “Project of Modernity and Women.”

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72. Kadioglu, “Paradox of Turkish Nationalism,” 189–190.
73. Catalbas, “Broadcasting Deregulation in Turkey”; Aksoy and Robins, “Thinking
across Spaces;” Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity.”

Chapter 2. Political Economic Transformation of Media in the 1990s

1. Hallin and Papathanasopoulos, “Political Clientelism and the Media.”
2. McQuail, “Current State of Media Governance”; Kalyani and Kavoori, “Global-
ization and National Media Systems”; Psychogiopoulou and Anagnostou, “Recasting
the Contours.”
3. Arcayurek, Demokrasi Surecinde Basin, 84.
4. Kurban and Sozeri, Does Media Policy Promote Freedom?; Sonmez, Filler ve
Cimenler; Kaya and Cakmur, “Politics and the Mass Media”; Topuz, Turk Basin Tarihi.
5. Adakli, “Process of Neo-liberalization,” 299.
6. Personal interview, June 17, 2013; Demir, Turkiye’de Medya Siyaset Iliskisi.
7. Personal interview, June 17, 2013.
8. Topuz, Turk Basin Tarihi, 259–260.
9. Ozerkan, Haber Analizi ve Arsiv Incelemeleriyle.
10. Sozeri and Guney, Political Economy of the Media, 32.
11. Karahisar, Turkiye’de Medya Sektoru ve Gazeteciler, 74.
12. The new Constitution concentrated power in the executive branch and in-
creased the powers of the president and the National Security Council. The NSC
would be composed of five ministers in the government and five military generals
and would be responsible for making recommendations to the cabinet. The new Con-
stitution also prohibited any cooperation between political parties and associations,
unions, and professional organizations and curbed the autonomy of the universities.
See Ozbudun and Genckaya, Democratization and the Politics, 22.
13. The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey (English version).
14. Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini define clientelism as “a pattern of social or-
ganization in which access to social resources is controlled by patrons and delivered
to clients in exchange for deference and various forms of support.” It is associated
with the instrumentalization of public and private media, whereby appointments
in public media are made on the basis of political loyalty, while private media own-
ers use their media assets and political connections as negotiation tools to obtain
government contracts and subsidies. See Hallin and Mancini, Comparing Media
Systems, 58. For analyses of clientelism in Turkey’s media system, see Tilic, Media
Ownership Structures in Turkey, Finkel, “Who Guards the Press?”; Tunc, “Faustian
Acts in Turkish Style”; Bek, “Tabloidization of News Media”; Christensen, “Breaking
the News”; Kaya and Cakmur, “Politics and the Mass Media.”
15. Personal interview, June 1, 2014.
16. Tuncel, “Bab-i Ali’den Ikitelli’ye.”
17. Personal interview, June 1, 2014. 
18. Ozerkan, Haber Analizi ve Arsiv Incelemeleriyle, 259.

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19. Personal interview, June 1, 2014.
20. Kaya, Iktidar Yumagi, 353.
21. Aydin, “Media in Turkey.”
22. McCargo, “Partisan Polyvalence,” 211; Hallin and Papathanassopoulos, “Politi-
cal Clientelism and the Media.”
23. Kaya and Cakmur, “Politics and the Mass Media,” 529.
24. Sonmez, Filler ve Cimenler.
25. Personal interview, June 19, 2013.
26. Sonmez, Filler ve Cimenler, 45–46.
27. Kurban and Sozeri, “Does Media Policy Promote Freedom?” 10–17.
28. Hesmondhalgh, “Neoliberalism, Imperialism and the Media,” 100.
29. See Herman and McChesney, Global Media; Hallin, “Neoliberalism, Social
Movements and Change”; McQuail, “Current State of Media Governance”; Waisbord,
Watchdog Journalism in South America; Doyle, Media Ownership; Scott, “Contem-
porary History of Digital Journalism.”
30. Blankson and Murphy, Negotiating Democracy, 5–6.
31. Straubhaar, “From PTT to Private”; Blankson and Murphy, Negotiating De-
mocracy, 5–6.
32. Waisbord, Watchdog Journalism in South America; Kalyani, and Kavoori, “Glo-
balization and National Media Systems”; 88; Hallin, “Neoliberalism, Social Move-
ments and Change,” 43–57; Fox and Waisbord, Latin Politics, Global Media.
33. Kalyani, and Kavoori, “Globalization and National Media Systems”; Doyle,
Media Ownership; Golding and Murdock, “Culture, Communications and Political
34. Hoffman-Riem, “Trends in the Development,” 152; McQuail “Current State
of Media Governance.”
35. Kaya, Iktidar Yumagi, 242.
36. Mody and Tsui, “Changing Role of the State.”
37. Algan, “Privatization of Radio,” 186.
38. Hoffman-Riem, “Trends in the Development,”151.
39. See McCargo’s analysis of the role of the state in media systems in Southeast
Asia. McCargo, “Partisan Polyvalence,” 213.
40. Kraidy and Khalil, Arab Television Industries.
41. Cankaya, Bir Kitle Iletisim Kurumunun Tarihi, 34.
42. Law 2954 on Turkish Radio and Television.
43. Catalbas, “Broadcasting Deregulation in Turkey,” 127.
44. Algan, “Privatization of Radio.”
45. Kejanlioglu, Celenk, and Adakli, Medya Politikaları, 94.
46. Concurrent with these governmental initiatives, the PTT itself was making
investments in technological infrastructure that would be conducive to commercial
broadcasting in the future. Among them were a cable television project to distribute
satellite programming and a 315 million-dollar project to launch the first-ever Turk-
ish telecom satellite. See Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity,” 33.

Notes to Chapter 2 155

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47. Ibid.
48. Aksoy and Robins, “Gecekondu-Style Broadcasting in Turkey,” 15–17.
49. “Rekabete Davet.”
50. “Ozal Reklamcilara Magic Box’i Tanitti.”
51. Catalbas, “Broadcasting Deregulation in Turkey,”127.
52. Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity,” 33–34.
53. Aksoy and Robins, “Gecekondu-Style Broadcasting in Turkey,” 16.
54. Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity,” 31–41.
55. Ibid.
56. Pekman, “Audiovisual Policy.”
57. Hoffman-Riem, “Trends in the Development,” 153.
58. Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity,” 32.
59. Kejanlioglu, Turkiye’de Medyanin Donusumu, 381.
60. Celenk, Televizyon, Temsil, Kultur, 128.
61. Hoffman-Riem, “Trends in the Development,” 150; Doyle, Media Ownership, 175.
62. Doyle, Media Ownership, 175.
63. Kurban and Sozeri, “Policy Suggestions”; Aksoy and Robins, “Peripheral Vi-
sion,” 1948.
64. Adakli, “Yayincilik Alaninda Mulkiyet ve Kontrol.”
65. Personal interview, June 1, 2014.
66. Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity.”
67. Ibid., 36.
68. Hallin, “Neoliberalism, Social Movements and Change.”
69. Ibid., 48.
70. Cizre and Yeldan, “Politics, Society and Financial Liberalization.”
71. Hallin, “Neoliberalism, Social Movements and Change.”
72. Sahin and Aksoy, “Global Media and Cultural Identity,” 36.
73. Cemal, “Islamcilarin Televizyon Atagi.”
74. It is important to note that the Islamist actors’ media ventures can be traced
back to at least the 1980s. Supported by the government and the military regime as
a counterforce to communism, Islamist publishers flourished and launched as many
as forty-five monthly periodicals. They were generally supported by religious sects
and pious businessmen and provided critique of the official state ideology from an
Islamic perspective. See S. Ayata, “Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism.”
75. Oncu, “Rapid Commercialization and Continued Control.”
76. Barraclough, “Pakistani Television Politics,” 238.
77. Kraidy, “Arab Satellite Television.”
78. Barraclough, “Pakistani Television Politics,” 238.
79. Adakli, “Process of Neo-liberalization.”
80. Ibid.
81. Aksoy and Robins, “Gecekondu-Style Broadcasting in Turkey,” 16.
82. Law 3984 on the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Their

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83. Adakli, “Yayincilik Alanında Mulkiyet ve Kontrol.”
84. Kurban and Sozeri, “Does Media Policy Promote Media Freedom?,” 9.
85. Kejanlioglu et al., Medya Politikalari, 134.
86. Capli, “Turkey.”
87. Hoffman-Riem, “Trends in the Development,” 149.
88. Catalbas, “Broadcasting Deregulation in Turkey.”
89. Curran, “Mediations of Democracy,” 129.
90. Ibid., 129–132.
91. Hussein and Napoli, “Media and Power in Egypt.”
92. Ibid.
93. Kraidy and Khalil, Arab Television Industries, 9.
94. Sabry, “What Is ‘Global’ about Arab Media?”
95. International Media Support, “Media in Pakistan,” 21.

Chapter 3. Containing Kurdish Nationalism

and Political Islam in the 1990s
1. Oktem, Angry Nation, 84–88.
2. Jenkins, “Context and Circumstance,” 9.
3. “Vatandas En Cok TSK’ya Guveniyor.” In 2009–2010, the public support for the
military began to decline. See chapter 5 for further details.
4. Jenkins, “Context and Circumstance,” 9.
5. Cizre, “New Politics of Engagement,” 126.
6. Uzgel, “AKP.”
7. Ibid.
8. Ozbudun and Genckaya, Democratization and the Politics.
9. Park, Modern Turkey, 14; Jenkins, “Context and Circumstance.”
10. Sezgin and Wall, “Constructing the Kurds.”
11. See ibid. for a detailed discussion of these issues.
12. Yumul and Ozkirimli, “Reproducing the Nation.”
13. Navaro-Yashin, Faces of the State, 128.
14. Ibid., 130.
15. Cemal, Kurtler, 101–111.
16. Personal interview, October 5, 2013.
17. “Ifadedeki Isimler,” Hurriyet.
18. Eksi, “Alcaklari Taniyalim.”
19. Cambaz, “Asker Istedi, Biz de Yayinladik.”
20. Candar, “28 Subat’tan Alo Fatih Korku Donemine.”
21. For more examples of prosecution of journalists both from mainstream and
Kurdish publications in the 1990s, see Committee to Protect Journalists, “Turkey:
Criminal Prosecutions.”
22. See Committee to Protect Journalists, “Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis.” The
vague language of Turkish laws makes it difficult to confirm whether a journalist

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is charged because of journalistic activities or another crime. Moreover, different
organizations use different criteria in tallying the numbers. Some include only jour-
nalists, while others include journalists, publishers, and distributors in their list of
imprisoned journalists. In 1997, Reporters without Borders said there were 8 journal-
ists in prison on “press crimes,” adding that it could not determine whether another
77 were also imprisoned on journalism-related activities. In 1998, the Committee
to Protect Journalists said the number of journalists behind bars was 29, while the
Press Council of Turkey put that number at 11, and the Human Rights Foundation
of Turkey listed it at 60.
23. Mavioglu, Cenderedeki Medya Tenceredeki Gazeteci.
24. Committee to Protect Journalists, “20 Journalists Killed in Turkey.”
25. Human Rights Watch, “Violations of Free Expression.”
26. Ibid.
27. B. Ayata, “Kurdish Transnational Politics”; Hassanpour, “Satellite Footprints
as National Borders.”
28. Hassanpour, “Satellite Footprints as National Borders,” 55.
29. Ibid.
30. Kosnick, “Exit and Voice Revisited;” Hassanpour, “Satellite Footprints as Na-
tional Borders,” 55.
31. Ayata, “Kurdish Transnational Politics,” 526.
32. Personal interview, November 12, 2013.
33. Kosnick, “Exit and Voice Revisited.”
34. Hassanpour, “Satellite Footprints as National Borders,” 61; Cohen, “Little Big-
gam Man.”
35. Pekman, “Audiovisual Policy.”
36. Hassanpour, “Satellite Footprints as National Borders,” 62.
37. “UK Regulator Revokes.”
38. Schleifer, “Denmark, Again?”
39. “Danish Court Fines Kurd TV.”
40. Kirisci, “Kurdish Question,” 281.
41. Yavuz, “Preamble to the Kurdish Question,” 14.
42. Kirisci, “Kurdish Question,” 279.
43. Hendrick, Gulen, 233–235.
44. Cizre, “Rethinking the Connections,” 11.
45. Onis, “Political Economy of Islamic Resurgence”; Yavuz, “Political Islam”; Dagi,
“Transformation of Islamist Political Identity.”
46. Tombus, “Reluctant Democratization,” 316–17, Yildiz, “Politico-Religious Dis-
course of Political Islam”; Onis, “Political Economy of Islamic Resurgence”; Onis
“Political Islam at the Crossroads,” 227.
47. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 241–243.
48. Cumhuriyet, July 2, 1996, 4; ibid., July 7, 1996, 1.
49. Milliyet, July 18, 1996; Hurriyet, October 17, 1996.
50. Hurriyet, November 4, 1997.

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51. Hurriyet, January 10, 1996.
52. Sabah, September 15, 1996.
53. Hurriyet, December 20, 1996.
54. Hurriyet, February 5, 1997.
55. “Gures: Tanklar Infilaki Onledi.”
56. “Tahrikler Bitmiyor”; “Askerden Tankli Protesto.”
57. Toprak, “Islam and Democracy in Turkey.”
58. Sharon-Krespin, “Fethullah Gulen’s Grand Ambition,” 61.
59. Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 312.
60. Morris, “Dispatches.”
61. Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 313.
62. Heper and Keyman, “Double-Faced State,” 271; Egilmez, Brifing’deki Irtica.
63. Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 309; Yavuz, “Cleansing Islam”; Cizre and
Cinar, “Turkey 2002.”
64. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 246.
65. Milliyet, June 6, 1997.
66. Toprak, “Islam and Democracy in Turkey.”
67. “Ekonomiye Darbe Freni.”
68. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 244.
69. Human Rights Watch, “Violations of Free Expression.”
70. Cizre and Cinar, “Turkey 2002,” 322.
71. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 245.
72. M. Aksoy, “Medya Olmasaydi 28 Subat Olmazdi.”
73. H. Guler, “Medya Patronlari 28 Subat’i Mecliste Anlatti.”
74. Cemal, “Buyuk Medyanin Eski Gucu Neden mi Yok?”
75. Personal interview, June 23, 2013.
76. Ibid.
77. Ibid.
78. Bugra and Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey, 18
79. Onis and Turem, “Business, Globalization and Democracy.”
80. Parla, “Mercantile Militarism in Turkey.”
81. Akca, Military-Economic Structure in Turkey.
82. Parla, “Mercantile Militarism in Turkey.”
83. Cook, Ruling but Not Governing, 15.
84. Slater, Ordering Power, 5–6.
85. Cook, “Istanbul on the Nile.”
86. Baer, “Islam and Politics,” 18. For a detailed analysis of the Egyptian and Turk-
ish experiences regarding divergent colonial experiences, see Cook, Ruling but Not
87. Sayari, “Politicization of Islamic Re-traditionalism,” 120–127.
88. Cook, Ruling but Not Governing, 87, 100.
89. Ibid., 12.
90. Haqqani, Pakistan between Mosque and Military.

Notes to Chapter 3 159

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91. Cook, Ruling but Not Governing, 8, 15, 136.
92. Cook, “Istanbul on the Nile.”
93. Siddiqa, Military, Inc.; Shah, “Constraining Consolidation.”

Chapter 4. The AKP Era: Between the Market and the State
1. “Dervis: Turkiye’ye Gelen”; Moore, “Argument Costs Turkey $5 Billion.”
2. Bugra and Savaskan, 53; Onis, “Triumph of Conservative Globalism,” 138–139.
3. Vick, “Turkish Vote.”
4. Pope and Pope, Turkey Unveiled, 323.
5. Ibid., 323.
6. Vick, “Turkish Vote.”
7. Turam, Between Islam and the State.
8. Taspinar, “Turkey.”
9. Onis, “Political Islam at the Crossroads,” 284; Yavuz, Secularism and Muslim
Democracy; Atasoy, Islam’s Marriage with Neoliberalism.
10. Turam, Between Islam and the State, 64.
11. Taspinar, “Turkey.”
12. Onis, “The Political Economy of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party.”
13. Lagendijk, “Turkey’s Accession.”
14. Between 1985 and 2003, privatization amounted to 8.2 billion dollars. Follow-
ing the AKP’s privatization program, it reached approximately 36.4 billion dollars
between 2004 and 2009. See Guran, “Political Economy of Privatization.”
15. Bugra and Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey, 66.
16. Cosar and Ozman, “Centre-Right Politics in Turkey.”
17. Oktem, Angry Nation, 118.
18. Onis, “Triumph of Conservative Globalism,” 139.
19. Yeldan, “Patterns of Adjustment.”
20. The AKP’s legal reforms were actually based on the National Program prepared
by the previous coalition government in response to the EU’s 2000 Accession Partner-
ship Report. The EU had set forth the following criteria in this report: 1) strengthen
legal and constitutional guarantees for the right to freedom of expression, freedom
of association, and peaceful assembly; 2) reinforce the fight against torture and ill-
treatment and all violations of human rights; 3) improve the functioning and the
efficiency of the judiciary; 4) maintain the de facto moratorium on death penalty;
5) remove all legal barriers that prohibit the use of languages other than Turkish in
21. Hale, “Human Rights”; Oktem, Angry Nation, 124; Pope and Pope, Turkey Un-
veiled, 332–335.
22. Kirisci, “Kurdish Question and Turkish Foreign Policy.”
23. Jenkins, “Context and Circumstance,” 9.
24. Muftuler-Bac, “Turkey’s Political Reforms.”
25. “Anti-Americanism.”

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26. Howard and Goldenberg, “US Arrest of Soldiers.”
27. “Turks Protest Soldiers’ Detention.”
28. Grigoriadis, Upsurge amidst Political Uncertainty, 14.
29. Ibid.
30. “Kitabini Genc Kusak Icin Yazdi.”
31. Yanik, “Valley of the Wolves—Iraq.”
32. Roxborough, “German Theater Chain.”
33. Ogan, Cicek and Kaptan, “Reverse Glocalization?,” 58.
34. Ibid.
35. Oktem, Angry Nation, 150–53.
36. “Unfavorable View of Jews and Muslims.”
37. The arrest of the assassin came a day later, yet it did not relieve anyone. It was
widely believed that a murky network of intelligence, military, and state organs was
behind the murder, which has not been uncovered to this day.
38. Oktem includes the following among these revisionist works: Fethiye Cetin’s
book My Grandmother: A Memoir (2004), which describes how the author’s Ar-
menian Christian grandmother was taken by a Turkish officer in 1915 and raised
as Muslim Turkish; Armenians in Turkey 100 Years Ago, an exhibition and a book
about Armenian life in the Ottoman Empire before 1915; Elif Safak’s fiction Bastard
of Istanbul (2006), which explores the genocide through the words of an American
Armenian visiting Istanbul; and the Turkish translation (2005) of Deportation Memo-
ries of a Child Named MK by Armenian writer Manuel Kirkyasaryan. See Oktem,
Angry Nation, 146.
39. For the original story in Turkish see Kalkan, “Sabiha Gokcen mi Hatun Se-
bilciyan mi?” For the English version see “Sabiha Gokcen or Hatun Sebilciyan?,”
Hurriyet, February 21, 2004,
40. Goktas, “Hrant Dink’in Basinda Hedef.”
41. Amnesty International, “Turkey.” Article 301 was later amended in 2008 as such:
1) A person who publicly degrades the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of
Turkey, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of
Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State, shall be sentenced to a penalty of impris-
onment for a term of six months to two years[.] 2) A person who publicly degrades
the military or security organizations of the State shall be sentenced to a penalty in
accordance with the first section[.] 3) The expression of an opinion for the purpose
of criticism does not constitute an offence. 4) The conduct of investigation for such
offence shall be subject to the permission of the Minister of Justice. European Com-
mission, “Turkey 2008 Progress Report.”
42. Goktas, “Hrant Dink’in Basinda Hedef ”
43. Amnesty International, “Turkey.”
44. Ergun, “Elif Safak da Yargilanacak”; Fowler, “Turkey, a Touchy Critic.”
45. H. Kose, “Pamuk Davasi Durduruldu.”
46. Freely, “Why They Killed Hrant Dink?”
47. Grigoriadis, Upsurge amidst Political Uncertainty, 16.

Notes to Chapter 4 161

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48. Oktem, Angry Nation, 149.
49. U.S Department of State, “Country Report on Human Rights.”
50. Sezgin and Wall, “Constructing the Kurds.”
51. Arsan, “Turkiye Kurtlerinde TRT Ses Algisi.”
52. B. Ayata, “Kurdish Transnational Politics.”
53. Arsan, “Turkiye Kurtlerinde TRT Ses Algisi.”
54. U.S Department of State, “Country Report on Human Rights.”
55. “Gazeteci Operasyonu.”
56. Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis.
57. Ibid.
58. Despite the absence of an independently owned national or regional Kurdish
channel, there are various outlets regularly watched by the Kurdish community. They
include IMC TV (Turkey-based cable channel that broadcasts in Turkish but with
content that is found favorable by Kurds and other ethnic or religious minorities)
and several Kurdish satellite channels based in Europe and Northern Iraq.
59. See TMSF-Tasarruf Mevduat Sigorta Fonu, “2004 Yili Faaliyet Raporu.”
60. Jean-Yackley, “Turkish Media Assets Seized.”
61. Sachs, “Sell-off of Media Property.”
62. Ibid.
63. Sumer, “Impact of Europeanisation on Policy-making.”
64. Ibid.
65. “Yabancinin Medya Sahipligi Yargiya Gidecek”; “Medyadaki Yabanci Kendi
Cikarina Calisir.”
66. “Yabanciya Veto”; “Yabanciya Sinirsiz Medya Yasasi Veto Edildi.”
67. Sumer and Adakli, “6112 Sayili Radyo ve Televizyonlarin Kurulus,” 150–151.
68. Ibid., 146.
69. Khiabany, Iranian Media, 18–21.

Chapter 5. The Remaking of the Media-Military-State

Relationships in the Early Twenty-First Century
1. Some of the interview findings and information regarding legal provisions and
ownership structures presented in this chapter draw on my article “Press Censor-
ship in Turkey.”
2. Sonmez, Filler ve Cimenler, 146.
3. Kaya, Iktidar Yumagi, 272–282.
4. Sachs, “Sell-off of Media Property.”
5. Kaya, Iktidar Yumagi, 267.
6. Bilgin, “Hayatimiz Kagit Dedi”; “KanalTurk El Degistirdi.”
7. Dalan, “Star Gazetesi ve Kanal 24’e Ortak Oldu”; “Kanal 24 Yayin Hayatina
8. “Tayyip Erdogan Idolum, Sevdalisiyim.”

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9. Rubin, “Erdogan, Ergenekon, and the Struggle”; Kaya and Cakmur, “Politics
and the Mass Media.”
10. Baydar, “In Turkey, Media Bosses.”
11. “Halk Bankasi, Star Gazetesi.”
12. “AdEx: Public Firms Biased.”
13. Hendrick, “Media Wars and the Gulen Factor.”
14. Sazak, Batsin Boyle Gazetecilik.
15. Higgins, “Turkish Mogul Butts Heads with Premier;” Watson, “Turkish ‘Me-
dia War’ Causes Alarm”; Arsu and Tavernise, “Turkish Media Group”; “Basbakan
Medyayi Ekonomik Baskiyla Sindirmeye Calisiyor.”
16. “Concerns Expressed over Tax Fine”; Onderoglu, “Dogan Grubu Hukumete
Karsi Tavri.”
17. “Censorship in the Park.”
18. O’Byrne, “Turkish Media Mogul Resigns”; “Aydin Dogan Istifa Etti.”
19. Personal interview, May 12, 2012.
20. Cengiz, “Government Flows through the Capillaries.”
21. Baydar, “Unbearable Lightness of Press Freedom.”
22. Baydar, “WAN’a Perde Indi”; Baydar, “Scandal at WAN-IFRA/WEF Congress.”
Also see Kenes, “Where Do WAN-IFRA and Dogan Group Stand.” In his 2014 report
penned as a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University, Baydar conveniently omitted
his misgivings toward Dogan Media. See Baydar, “Newsroom as an Open Air Prison.”
23. Strauss, “Business and Politics Mesh.”
24. Alpay, “Paradox of Press Freedom in Turkey”; Alpay, “Turkiye’de Basin ve Ifade.”
25. Guven, “Bir Mektup.”
26. “Can Dundar NTV’den Ayrildi.”
27. Bugra and Savaskan, 98–100.
28. Finkel, “Turkey’s Muzzled Muckrakers.”
29. Ozvaris, “Soylesi: Mehmet Altan.”
30. B. Park, Modern Turkey; S. Kaya, “Rise and Decline”; Jenkins, “Between Fact
and Fantasy.”
31. Lagendijk, “Turkey’s Accession.”
32. “Baykal: Ergenekon Laik Cumhuriyetle Hesaplasmadir”; “Opposition Says
Ergenekon Government Tool”; Saidazimova, “Turkey.”
33. Rubin, “Erdogan, Ergenekon, and the Struggle.”
34. Jenkins, “Ergenekon Verdicts.”
35. Dundar and Kazdagli, Ergenekon.
36. In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions de-
termined that the defendants in the Sledgehammer trial were held in violation of
international law because of the breaches of due process. See “The Detention of
Sledgehammer Defendants Is ‘Arbitrary’ Says U.N. Body,” http://balyozdavasive

Notes to Chapter 5 163

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37. Sonnenschein, “Urban Turks’ Trust.”
38. For example, the mainstream Hurriyet immediately rejected the first story
and questioned the authenticity of the leaked documents, implicitly siding with the
military. However, a few days later, when the document was confirmed as authentic
by the General Staff itself, Hurriyet chose to remain silent.
39. Birch, “Turkey.”
40. Taraf, June 20, 2008.
41. In early 2007, the AKP had put forward the then minister of foreign affairs,
Abdullah Gul, as a candidate for the office of the presidency. Irritated by the prospects
of an Islam-oriented president, the Turkish Armed Forces issued a statement on its
website, which has since been referred to as the “e-memorandum.” In it, the military
noted that “radical Islam has been expanding its sphere of influence with encour-
agement from politicians and local authorities. The [TAF] are staunch defenders of
secularism and will demonstrate their position and attitudes when necessary.” In the
meantime, nongovernmental organizations known for their support of the military
were organizing “Republican rallies” in Istanbul and Ankara to protest against the
candidacy of Gul and the AKP. As tensions peaked, Cemil Cicek, then deputy prime
minister, called the military’s memorandum unacceptable, and Gul announced that
he would not withdraw his candidacy. Unwavering under pressure from the pro-
military circles, in July 2007, the AKP called early elections and won 47 percent of
the votes. A month later, the AKP-dominated Parliament elected Gul as president.
In 2008, the Constitutional Court tried to ban the AKP but failed.
42. “AKP ve Gulen’i Bitirme Plani”; “Fatih Camii Bombalanacakti.” For a more
detailed analysis of the Gulen community, see Tugal, Passive Revolution; Hendrick,
“Media Wars and the Gulen Factor.”
43. Altan, “Orgeneral Yasar Buyukanit’a.”
44. Arsan and Coban, “Giris.”
45. Kilic, “Sikisinca Borc Alarak Gazeteyi Cikariyoruz.”
46. Dumanli, “As the Profession of Journalism.”
47. Rubin, “Erdogan’s Willing Enablers.” For more analyses on Gulen-affliated
media and their role in political affairs, see Rodrik, “Levels of Intellectual Respon-
sibility,” and Schenkkan, “End of Turkey in Europe.”
48. Hendrick, Gulen, 178.
49. Ibid., 177.
50. Hendrick, “Media Wars and the Gulen Factor.”
51. Mahoney, “Mission Journal.”
52. Baydar, “Journalists in Jail.”
53. “Three OdaTV Journalists Arrested”; “Soner Yalcin ve Iki Gazeteci Tutuklandi”;
“Annex to the Statement.”
54. Kose, “Telecommunications Interception in Turkey.”
55. Ibid.; Rubin, “Erdogan, Ergenekon, and the Struggle.”
56. Schleifer, “Turkey Sours on Surveillance.”
57. Ibid.

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58. Jenkins, “Devil in the Detail.”
59. Christie-Miller, “Is Model Turkey Sliding?”
60. “Gazeteci Operasyonu.”
61. Mahoney, “Mission Journal.”
62. Temel, “En Cok Haber Yapmayi Ozluyorum.”
63. Reporters without Borders, “World Press Freedom Index.”
64. Hammarberg, “Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom.”
65. Committee to Protect Journalists, “Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis.”
66. “Prime Minister Erdogan.”
67. Bagis, “Gercegi Ortaya Koymak.”
68. Alpay, “Paradox of Press Freedom in Turkey”; Alpay, “Turkiye’de Basin.”
69. Candar, “Who’s Calling Turkey a Police State?”
70. Freedman, Politics of Media Policy, 49.
71. Harvey, New Imperialism, 28.
72. Jacubowicz, Rude Awakening; Waisbord, Watchdog Journalism in South Amer-
ica; Voltmer, “How Far Can Media Systems Travel?;” McCargo, Media and Politics;
Sen and Lee, Political Regimes and the Media in Asia.
73. Bugra and Savaskan, New Capitalism in Turkey, 99.
74. Ibid, 12, 17.
75. Ibid, 79, 80, 95.

Chapter 6. Gezi Park Protests, Corruption Investigation, and the

Control of the Online Public Sphere
1. Keyder, “Law of the Father.”
2. Ozel, “Moment of Elation.”
3. Ibid.
4. Turkiye Insan Haklari Vakfi, “Bir Yilin Ardindan Gezi.”
5. Ozel, “Moment of Elation.”
6. SMaPP Data Report, “Breakout Role for Twitter?”
7. Kuzuloglu, “Gezi Parki Eylemlerinin Sosyal Medya Karnesi”; Ergurel, “Role of
Social Networks.”
8. See Tufekci, “Everyone Is Getting Turkey’s Twitter.”
9. Konda, “Gezi Raporu.”
10. Pew Research Center, “Turks Divided on Erdogan.”
11. Kemp, “Digital, Social and Mobile.”
12. “Turkiye’de Sosyal Ag Ziyaretcileri Profili.”
13. “Turkiye’de Internet Kullanimi 2014.”
14. “Censorship in the Park,” 9.
15. Personal interview, June 15, 2014.
16. “Censorship in the Park,” 10.
17. Personal interview, June 20, 2013.
18. Later, Ulusal TV, Halk TV, Cem TV, and EM TV were fined by the RTUK for

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their Gezi coverage on charges of “encouraging audiences to violence, hatred and
enmity” and broadcasting content that was allegedly “harmful for the physical, moral
and mental development of children and young people.” They were ordered to pay
approximately $3,000 each as a penalty, perhaps not a large sum but nonetheless
significant. See “RTUK Fines TV Networks.” 
19. Today, Capul TV serves as an independent, online television channel and is
voluntarily free of sponsorship. Self-defined as a group engaged in the struggle for
“people’s rights to communication,” it functions as a news portal, a platform for citi-
zen journalism, and a collection of Gezi-related films. It also features live-streamed
programs on a nightly basis covering politics, arts, and culture.
20. Dlugoleski, “We Are All Journalists Now.”
21. The founder of @140journos, Engin Onder, said, “the influx of information
from their followers” during Gezi protests propelled them to focus on “curation,
storytelling, and verifying.” See Kenner, “On the Front Lines.”
22. Ibid.; Onder, “Sense of Exhilaration and Possibility.”
23. P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, “About Us.”
24. Butler, Foreword.
25. Jenkins, “Erdogan, the AKP and the Repercussions.”
26. “Police to Consider Protestors.”
27. “Turkish Media Behaves Sensitive.”
28. “‘Shame on You,’ Amanpour Reacts.”
29. “BBC Reporters Intimidated by Turkey.”
30. Letsch, “Turkish PM’s Treason Claims.”
31. Ozel, “Moment of Elation.”
32. Parkinson, “Amid Turkey Unrest.”
33. Pearson and Tuysuz, “Turkish Authorities Arrest.”
34. “Sehirler Kararacak, Ekonomi Cokecekti.”
35. “Police Is ‘Working on’ Twitter.”
36. The TIB and BTK are seemingly autonomous institutions, yet they are highly
politicized. This is because they are under the authority of the Ministry of Trans-
portation, Maritime and Communications, and their board members are appointed
by the government.
37. Ocak, “‘Siber Suclar’ Icin Resmi Adim Atildi.”
38. Albayrak and Parkinson, “Turkey’s Government Forms.”
39. As a matter of fact, the discord between the two allies has been ongoing for
some time, and first signs of the rift occurred in 2012 when Gulenist prosecutors
initiated an inquiry into senior intelligence officers, who were engaged in nego-
tiations with the PKK, and charged them with treason. The AKP swiftly quashed
the investigation by passing an overnight parliamentary decree, but this incident
brought into sharp relief that the AKP’s “Kurdish opening” was a key policy area
where the two allies significantly diverged. In late 2013, the AKP government, in a
move to curtail the Gulen community’s influence, proposed to close down private
test-cramming schools owned by Gulenists. It is widely believed that the corruption

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investigation was a retaliatory move by the Gulen camp against the AKP. See Roth,
“Turkey’s Tyrant in the Making.”
40. “Turkish PM Acknowledges Phone Call.”
41. Yetkin, “Increasing Political Pressure.”
42. Srivastava, Harvey, and Ersoy, “Erdogan’s Media Grab Stymies Expansion.”
43. Tufekci, “Everyone Is Getting Turkey’s Twitter.”
44. “Emine Erdogan.”
45. Tattersall, “Turkey Calls Syria Security Leak.”
46. “Twitter Yasak Dinlemedi.”
47. “Turkey Lifts Block.”
48. Peker and Schechner, “Turkey Briefly Blocks YouTube.”
49. Google Transparency Report, “Government Requests to Remove Content.”
50. Facebook, “Government Requests Report.”
51. Arsu and Scott, “Facebook Is Said to Block.”
52. Sabanci, “Are the World’s Biggest?”; Twitter, “Removal Requests.”
53. E. Sozeri, “Twitter’in Iki Yuzu.”
54. E. Guler, “Facebook Facing Accusation of Censoring.”
55. Freedom House, “Struggle for Turkey’s Internet.”
56. Basaran, “PKK’ya Ait Hersey Kapatma Nedenidir.”
57. Facebook has also censored content in Syria, China, and Russia—see Cuthbert-
son, “Zuckerberg’s Free Speech Rhetoric.” For a broader analysis of how social media
companies can inhibit democracy activists, see Youmans and York, “Social Media.”
58. Akdeniz, “OSCE Representative on Freedom.”
59. Law 5651, Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes
Committed by Means of Such Publication.
60. Freedom House, “Struggle for Turkey’s Internet.”
61. Roth, “Turkey’s Tyrant in the Making”; Freedom House, “Struggle for Turkey’s
62. “17 Aralik Yolsuzluk Sorusturmasina.”
63. TBMM, “Kanun Tasarisi.”
64. “Basin Kanunu Degisiyor”; Freedom House, “Struggle for Turkey’s Internet.”
65. Akdeniz, “OSCE Representative on Freedom”; Freedom House, “Freedom on
the Net 2012.”
66. Law 5816, The Law Concerning Crimes Committed against Ataturk.
67. Rosen, “Google’s Gatekeepers.”
68. Watson, “Turkey Lifts YouTube Ban.” Obviously, Turkey is not the only country
to have blocked access to YouTube. Armenia, Brazil, Burma, China, Indonesia, Iran,
Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates have also
banned YouTube, but each of them only intermittently. See “YouTube Censored.”
YouTube was not the only site to be banned in its entirety. Among other sites that
were blocked between 2008 and 2011, though intermittently, were MySpace (a social
networking site), Dailymotion (a France-based video-sharing website), Vimeo (a
video-sharing website), Blogspot (a blog publishing service), and (a UK-based

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online music community). Also, according to the statistics published by the TIB,
another 3,700 websites were blocked between 2007 and 2009. Though the blockings
have continued since 2009, the TIB has stopped releasing the figures. At the time of
writing (March 2015), according to Engelli Web (“disabled web,”, a
Turkish-based website that tracks blockings through crowdsourcing and verification,
the number of currently inaccessible sites is around 65,000. Of these, 6.8 percent
were blocked by courts, and 93.2 percent were blocked by the TIB; of the inacces-
sible sites, 0.5 percent were blocked for child pornography, 90 percent were blocked
for obscenity, and about 10 percent were blocked for online gambling and copyright
infringement; for 1,300 websites, the blocking decision is not known. See Kizilkaya,
“Why Is Turkey Censoring Lingerie?”
69. Aydilek, “Devletten Twitter ve Face’e Mudahele.”
70. Ibid.
71. “Turkish Ministry Denies Reports.”
72. Freedom House, “Freedom on the Net 2012.”
73. Ibid.
74. “Turkey Forbids ‘Forbidden.’”
75. “Tweeting Pianist Say Denies.”
76. Freedom House, “Freedom in the World.”
77. Kinik, “Eksi Sozluk Yoneticisine.”
78. CC is based on the Arabic expression “Celle Celaluhu,” which means “[Allah’s]
glory is so almighty.”
79. “User Gets Prison Sentence.”
80. Deibert and Rohozinski, “Control and Subversion.”
81. Ibid.; MacKinnon, “China’s Networked Authoritarianism.”
82. “Aux Armes, Journalistes!”
83. Klishin, “How Putin Secretly Conquered”; Volchek and Sindelar, “One Russian
Professional Troll.”
84. “Legislative Restrictions on Popular Bloggers.”
85. Lynch, “After Egypt.”

1. McCargo and Zarakol, “Turkey and Thailand,” 72, 73.
2. Akca, Bekmen, and Ozden, Turkey Reframed.
3. Kahn and Srivastava, “Fragile?”
4. Tombus, “Reluctant Democratization,” 321.
5. For a general discussion of the Turkish model, see “Can the Turkish Model Gain
Traction?” and “U.S.-Turkey Relations.”
6. Ulgen, “From Inspiration to Aspiration”; Tol, “‘Turkish Model’ in the Middle
7. Altunisik, Turkey.
8. Akgun and Gundogar, Ortadogu’da Turkiye Algisi.

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9. Stein, “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy,” 2, 7, 9, 10.
10. “Turkish PM Erdogan Urges Mubarak.”
11. Stein, “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy,” 57, 88. In regard to Turkey’s “uneven
policies,” Stein notes that the AKP backed the autocratic regimes in the region until
the Arab Spring but began to support popular uprisings (and especially the Muslim
Brotherhood–linked political parties) only when it became clear that these regimes
would fall.
12. “Tunisian Islamist Leader Embraces Turkey,” 2011.
13. Hamid, Temptations of Power, 220.
14. Tombus, “Reluctant Democratization,” 314; Turam, “Are Rights and Liberties
15. “State Channel TRT Favors Erdogan.”
16. “RTUK Fines TV Networks.”
17. Onderoglu, “RTUK Son Uc Aylik Mesaisini.”
18. Turam, “Are Rights and Liberties Safe?”
19. Sabral, “New Education Bill.”
20. “Icki Satis Yasagi Basladi”; “Turkish Parliament Adopts Alcohol Restrictions.”
21. Sachs, “Adultery a Crime?”
22. “Abortion Sparks Raging Debate.”
23. “Erdogan Sets National Agenda.”
24. “Kizli Erkekli Eve Ilk Ceza Kesildi”; Demirozen, “Police ‘Raid’ House”; Dettmer,
“Turkey’s Erdogan Condemns Co-ed Dormitories.”
25. “Tiyatrodan Sonra Sinemaya da Ahlak Kriteri Geldi”; Tremblay, “Erdogan
26. “Beni Baskasiyla Hayal Et’e Rekor Ceza Geldi”; “RTUK Fines TV Channel”;
“RTUK’ten Sevisme Sahnesine Agir Ceza”; “RTUK to Decide.”
27. “RTUK Fines Private Broadcaster.”
28. “Turkish PM Tells Female Reporter.”
29. Karaveli, “Erdogan Stokes the Sectarian Fires.”
30. Yavuz, Islamic Political Identity in Turkey, 264–265.
31. Ibid.
32. U.S. Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights.”
33. Congar, “Milli Gazetecilik ve Gayrimilli Hislerim.”
34. Soylemez, “Ajanslardan Oto-Muhtira.”
35. “Massacre at Uludere.”
36. Personal interview, November 12, 2013.
37. “Turkey: End Prosecutions.”
38. Among the events the courts ordered not to be covered are the twin bombings
in a town near the Syrian border in 2013, the 2014 ISIS raid at Turkey’s Mosul consul-
ate and the ensuing hostage crisis, and the killing of a prosecutor in a courthouse by
a leftist militant group in 2015.
39. Guriev and Treisman, “New Authoritarianism.”
40. “Turkey Arrests.”

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41. Dumanli, “Turkey’s Witch Hunt.”
42. Uras, “Charlie Hebdo Cover Printed.”
43. “Ceyda Karan ve Hikmet Cetinkaya’ya.”
44. Meyersson and Rodrik, “Erdogan’s Coup”; Koplow, “Officers and Democrats”;
Cook, “Turkey’s Democratic Mirage,” Roth, “Turkey’s Tyrant in the Making.”

1. Shoumali and Yeginsu, “Turkey Says Suicide Bomb.”
2. Peker, “Turkey Sets Date.”
3. “Turkey to Form Interim Government.”
4. “Ankara Bombing.”
5. Onderoglu, “BIA Medya Gozlem Temmuz.”
6. “Turkey Deports Dutch Journalist.”
7. Bolton, “Vice News Journalist Mohammed Rasool.”
8. Yeginsu, “Opposition Journalists under Assault.”
9. Shaheen and Timur, “Turkish Media Denounce ‘Biggest Crackdown.’”
10. “MIT Tirlari Sorusturmasi.”

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140journos, 112 broadcasting, commercialization of. See

commercialization, of broadcasting
Adakli, Gulseren, 43 Broadcasting Law: of 1994, 47–48; of 2008,
advertising, 5, 37, 90 6, 83; of 2011, 6, 85
Akca, Ismet, 12 Bruff, Ian, 12
AKP (Justice and Development Party): BTK (Information and Communication
corruption scandal, 115, 130; and democ- Technologies Board), 123, 124, 125
ratization, 128–129; and EU, 75; foreign Bugra, Ayse, 14
policy of, 128, 129; founding and rise to
power of, 73–74; and Kemalists, 74–76, Capul TV, 111, 166n19
164n41; and partisan media, 89–91, 116 Charlie Hebdo attacks, 120, 140, 141
(see also pro-AKP media); religious-con- Ciner (media company), 5, 6, 7, 8, 88, 89,
servative values of, 132–135; response of, 90, 106
to Gezi Park protests, 112; “Twitter army” clientelism, 8, 22, 54, 68, 110, 118, 154n14
of, 115, 117, 126 CNNTurk (television channel), 110
Aksoy, Asu, 42, 44 commercialization, of broadcasting, 40–44,
AK trolls, 115 46; and democratization, 48; of media in
anti-Americanism, 76, 77 Egypt and Pakistan, 50
anti-Semitism, 78, 134, 135 concentration, 6, 48
Anti-Terror Law, and press freedoms, 56, 82 conglomeration, 6, 37, 38, 48, 68
anti-Western sentiments, 62, 76, 77 Constitution, and press freedoms, 33, 56
Arab Spring, 129 content removal, online, 119–120. See also
Armenian genocide, 79, 150n5 Internet restrictions
Ataturk, 9, 17 cross-ownership, 43
authoritarian neoliberalism, 10–12, 14, Cumhuriyet (newspaper), 64, 98, 140, 141
Azadiya Welat (newspaper), 102 deep state, 95, 96
Diamond, Larry, 11
Balyoz investigation, 96, 97, 98, 130, 140, Dicle Haber Ajansi, 102, 137
163n36 Dink, Hrant, 79–80, 100
BIK (Directorate General of Press An- Dogan Media, 6, 89, 91, 92
nouncements), 37 Dogus Media, 5, 6, 7, 88, 89, 94, 110

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Dokuz8Haber, 112 HDP (People’s Democratic Party), 143, 144
Dundar, Can, 94, 145 “hooding incident,” 76
Hurriyet (newspaper), 53, 55, 63, 64, 79, 98,
economic restructuring, 24–26, 86. See also 144
Egypt: media in, 50; military as economic illiberal democracy, 1, 11, 12
actor in, 70–71 IMC TV, 111, 162n58
elite, Kemalist/founding, 20, 21, 29, 53, 67, IMF (International Monetary Fund), 10,
68, 71 24–26, 39, 73
Erbakan, Necmettin, 62, 65 Internet: controls over, 110, 125–126; regula-
Erdogan, Recep Tayyip: as AKP founder, 73; tion of, 114; restrictions on, 114, 120–123,
control of media by, 117–118, 136–137; and 144; use of, in Turkey, 109
corruption scandal, 115–116; defamation Internet Law: of 2007, 120–121; of 2014, 121,
against, 138; and Dogan Media, 92–93; on 123; religious-conservative values in,
Gezi Park protests, 11, 112, 113; on journal- 133–134
ists’ arrests, 103; and “New Turkey,” 11; as Ipek-Koza (media company), 6, 7, 88, 90
President, 142; as Prime Minister, 74–75; ISIS attacks in Turkey, 143, 144
and pro-AKP media, 90–91; religious- Islam: insulting of, as crime, 124, 134; and
conservative values of, 132–133; on Twit- Kemalism, 20; and military 25; and state,
ter, 114, 118, 125 23; as threat, 52. See also Muslim entrepre-
Ergenekon investigation, 95, 96, 98, 100, neurs; Muslim nationalism; political Islam
101, 140 Islamist media, 28, 45–46, 65; in Middle
EU membership, 27, 60, 75, 86, 129 East, 46
EU harmonization, 10, 75, 81, 86, 129,
160n20 journalists: arrests of, 82, 96, 102; imprison-
ment of, 157n22; murders of, 57; pros-
Facebook, content removal from, 120 ecution of, 98, 102; solidarity among,
Feza (media company), 6, 7, 88, 90, 144, 103–104, 139
filtering, online, 124. See also Internet re- KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities),
strictions 82, 101–102, 136
financial pressures, on media companies, Kemal Ataturk, Mustafa, 9, 17
91–92 Kemalist elite, 20, 21, 29, 53, 67, 68, 71
founding elite, 20, 21, 29, 53, 67, 68, 71 Khiabany, Gholam, 86
Freedman, Des, 105 Kurdish issue: and military, 29, 56; in main-
freedom of speech, 85, 134. See also press stream media, 137
freedoms Kurdish media (pro-Kurdish media), sup-
pression of, 58–59, 81–83, 120–122
Gezi Park protests, 11; and media, 110–111; Kurdish nationalism, 52–53, 56–57
police violence during, 108; social media “Kurdish opening,” 130, 136
use during, 108; user-generated content Kurdish satellite broadcasting, 58–59, 81
during, 111–112 Kurdistan Workers’ Party. See PKK
Golding, Peter, 12 Kurds: arrests of, 82, 102; suppression of, 25,
Gulen, Fethullah, 28, 29, 64, 91 56–57, 81–82
Gulen-affiliated media companies, 6, 91, 116,
140, 144 liberalization: of broadcast content, 44–45;
Gulen community, 28, 29, 91, 95, 97, 98, 100; of media markets, 48
and AKP, 91, 98, 115, 116, 166n39
Magic Box, 40–42
HaberTurk (television channel), 90, 117 media companies, 5–7; alliance of, with the
Hallin, Daniel, 45 ruling elite, 50, 139; confiscation of, 83,
Harvey, David, 86, 105 89, 90; foreign ownership of, 83–85; gov-
hate speech, 79–80 ernment pressure on, 91–94, 116–117, 133,

210 Index

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139; Gulen-affiliated, 6, 91, 116, 140, 144; political Islam: as antidote to communism,
ownership of, 7, 47–49 61; and military, 25; rise of, 27; as threat,
media market, growth, 5; foreign ownership 52–53, 61
in, 83–85; deregulation of, 85 political talk shows, 44–45
MED TV, 58–59 politicization, of media companies, 8, 36, 140
Medya TV, 59 “postmodern coup,” 62
military: as economic actor in Turkey, 68–69, Poulantzas, Nicos, 12
71; as economic actor in Egypt and Paki- press freedoms, 33–35, 56–57, 93, 103, 104,
stan, 70–71; detention of officers, 96; and 140, 141
Kurds, 29–30; and media, 8, 54–56, 65–69, Press Law, 6, 35, 122
96–97; and political Islam, 25, 61–66; po- privacy, 100–102
litical role of, in Turkey, 52, 69–71; political privatization, 24, 26, 74–75, 106
role of, in Egypt and Pakistan, 70–71; pub- pro-AKP media, 89–91, 106, 116, 118
lic trust in, 51; tutelage, 52 PTT (Postal, Telephone and Telegraph),
military-bureaucratic establishment, 4, 8, 40, 41
67, 70, 93, 139 public broadcasting, 39. See also TRT
military coup, 23–25, 33, 52, 62; and media,
33, 62 radio: and nation-building, 21; number of
Milliyet (newspaper), 32, 56, 137 stations, 5
Mosco, Vincent, 14 religious-conservative values, 132–135
Murdock, Graham, 14 republican (Kemalist/founding) elite, 20, 21,
Muslim entrepreneurs, 61, 65, 74, 106 29, 53, 67, 68, 71
Muslim nationalism, 20, 28, 135 ROJ TV, 59
RP (Welfare Party), 61, 62, 64
nationalism, 18–19; in Constitution, 79–80; RTUK (Radio and Television Supreme
in cultural production, 76–78; and In- Council), 48, 85, 131, 134
ternet restrictions, 125; and mainstream Russia, Internet controls in, 126
media, 53–54; and reaction to EU harmo-
nization, 75, 81, 84, 86 Sabah (newspaper), 55, 56, 63, 66, 90
nation-building, 21, 39 Sabah/ATV (joint newspaper, television
neoliberalization, 24–26, 86; role of state in, outlet), 90, 118
50. See also authoritarian neoliberalism Sahin, Haluk, 42
newspapers, 6, 49; circulation of, 148n19; Samanyolu (media company), 6, 7, 148n24;
number of, 5. See also names of newspa- and AKP, 88, 91, 116; chairman of, arrest-
pers ed, 140; launch of, 45; and online stream-
“New Turkey,” 11, 141, 142 ing, 144; penalties levied on, 131
Nokta (magazine), 96–97 satellite broadcasting, in the 1990s, 39–43;
NSC (National Security Council), 25, 52, 75, by Kurds, 58, 81
154n12; and media, 33, 63, 64 secularism, 19–21
NTV (television channel), 89, 94, 110 Sener, Nedim, 100
Sevres Syndrome, 18, 62, 113, 99 Sik, Ahmet, 100
OYAK (Armed Forces Trust and Pension Sledgehammer investigation, 96, 97, 98, 130,
Fund), 69 140, 163n36
Ozal, Turgut, 32, 40, 60 social media, 108–122; crackdown on, 118–120
Ozgur Gundem (newspaper), 57, 102 Star 1 (television channel), 41–42
state: interference of, in Turkey’s media
Pakistan: media in, 50; military as economic sector, 50, 105; and Kurds, 18–19, 24–25,
actor in, 70–71 29–30, 60, 135; monopoly of, in broad-
Penal Code, and press freedoms, 57, 82 casting, 39; and political Islam, 19–21, 23,
“penguin media,” 110 24, 27–29; role of, in economy, 22, 50, 68;
PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), 51, 54, 55, role of, in global era, 14; role of, in poli-
58, 82, 102, 136 tics, 17–19

Index 211

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statism, principle of, 9 Turkish model, 2, 128–131
Sumer, Burcu, 84 Turkish Republic, founding of, 9, 17
surveillance, online, 121. See also wiretap- Twitter: and AKP, 115–117, 126; ban on, 114,
ping 118, 119; content removal from, 119, 120;
leaked tapes on, 116, 117; in Turkey, 109,
tabloidization, 36 112
talk shows, political, 44–45
Taraf (newspaper), 97 unions, 89
television: access to, 5; number of channels,
5; state monopoly in, 39. See also names websites, blocking of, 167n68. See also Inter-
of stations net restrictions
TIB (Telecommunications Communication Westernization, 19–21
Presidency), 118, 124, 125 wiretapping, 100–102, 116, 117
TMSF (Savings Deposit Insurance Fund), World Bank, 24–26, 39, 73
83, 89, 90
TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corpo- YOK (Higher Education Council), 52
ration), 39–44, 81 YouTube, ban on, 118, 123, 167n68
TRT Kurdi, 81–82
TRT Ses, 81–82 Zaman (newspaper), 65, 98, 116

212 Index

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Bilge Yesil is an associate professor of media culture
at City University of New York, College of Staten Island.
She is the author of Video Surveillance: Power and
Privacy in Everyday Life.

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Yesil_Text.indd 214 5/13/16 12:10 PM
The Geopolitics of Information

Digital Depression: Information Technology and Economic Crisis   Dan Schiller

Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures  Edited by Lisa Parks
and Nicole Starosielski
Media in New Turkey: The Origins of an Authoritarian Neoliberal State 
Bilge Yesil

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