Why the New York Times should cut its ties with an anti-democratic and continually anti-Semitic Turkish newspaper

Sabah is one of Turkey’s largest newspapers and is owned by Ahmet Çalık, the Turkish Prime Minister’s son-in-law. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the paper initially ignored the recent anti-government protests in Turkey and often portrayed the protestors in a negative light. While lack of press freedom and the often unfair, pro-government coverage of recent events should be expected in a country that ranks 154 in press freedom, it has put Western news outlets on awkward terms with their Turkish partners.

A petition on Change.org for CNN to cut its affiliation to CNN Turk has garnered over 105,000 signatures and the BBC suspended its relationship with Turkey’s NTV because NTV pulled a program on press freedom and the anti-government protests. The BBC also reported that after the suspension of ties, NTV apologized and finally began to cover the protests.

Despite the international outrage over coverage and precedent for cutting ties with Turkish outlets, the New York Times has maintained its relationship with Sabah, where its international edition, the New York Times International Weekly is published (A Sabah commercial promoting the paperAdd New’s connection with the Times can be viewed here). While this partnership isn’t under the New York Times’ better-known International Herald Tribune banner, it consists of weekly content from the week’s top stories and serves to benefit Sabah.

Though the New York Times published an article on June 2nd that highlighted Sabah’s focus on the Turkish government’s anti-smoking campaign even as widespread protests were ignored, its own links to the paper have yet to be called into question.

While Sabah is just as guilty as the majority of Turkish media outlets for its coverage, it has also repeatedly published anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. During a 2011 attack on Bloomberg News journalist, Benjamin Harvey, in response to an article critical of the government’s monetary policies, Sabah highlighted Michael Bloomberg’s Jewish identity and suggested that Harvey was doing the bidding of the “Jewish lobby.”

In another article that appeared in the Turkish edition of the paper on January 12, 2012 Sabah addressed the issue of Western media criticism by again propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The article criticized the Economist and Financial Times, which they cited as being “ruled by the Rothschild family,” supposedly the acting heads of the Jewish lobby. The article went on to fault the family and the Jewish lobby for a host of world conflicts.

This rhetoric was continued by Sabah vis-a-vis reporting during the more recent state of affairs and unrest in Turkey. Sabah and many other papers reported on Erdogan’s speech given on the crisis upon his return from a tour of North Africa. In that speech, Prime Minister Erdogan blames the current unrest on the “interest rate lobby.” Sabah’s coverage of the speech was predictably uncritical, and left no doubt as to the members of the “interest rate lobby.” According to reporting by a Turkish paper, the Hurriyet Daily News, Sabah clarified the comments in an article by identifying the lobby as “a coalition of Jewish financiers associated with both Opus Dei and Illuminati.”

Sabah’s blatantly anti-Semitic journalism along with the paper’s initial non-coverage of the protest and subsequent lack of journalistic integrity calls into question why a paper with the reputation of the New York Times would become involved with Sabah at all. Spreading the reach of their world-class content and boosting profit are understandable objectives, but the New York Times must consider the question, “At what cost?”

The Times, while having no direct responsibility for what is published in Sabah, should reconsider its relationship with the paper. It should do so in order to potentially change Sabah’s stance, or at the very least not lend its prestigious name to help sell copies of a paper that unapologetically propagates hate.

Research Assistance by Magnus Frank