Interview: Turkish Journalist, Cengiz Er

We discussed the recent local elections and the media order in Turkey with journalist Cengiz Er, a close relative of President Erdogan who has important roles in the media field in Turkey. Er, righteously stresses that many names in the media sector in Turkey are inadequate.

Can we say that as someone who knows President Erdogan closely, he is not satisfied with the results of the local elections?

I cannot say that he was very dissatisfied in general, but Istanbul was a big surprise for him. He believed that Binali Yıldırım, whom he previously assigned as the Prime Minister and the President of the Parliament, would win the election with a considerable margin of votes. But it didn’t happen. You know how much Erdogan attaches importance to Istanbul. I can’t say that he is dissatisfied with the votes his party has received in total. The election, where Erdogan tried and shouldered hardest during his political life, was the March 31 local elections. Indeed, this is why he constantly raised the perpetuity issue and kept it on the agenda during the campaign. I’d say he was left alone and had to fight alone during the campaign.

The AK Party seems to have failed to get what it wanted for the first time. What do you think is the biggest reason for this?

The fact that Ankara and Antalya were lost along with the uncertainty in Istanbul shows that the AK Party failed to get what it wanted from this election. We can count many things for as reasons. For example, I would say that the AK Party base experienced a motivation problem compared to previous elections. The most important thing to strengthen the perpetuity issue was the alliance with the MHP. However, MHP became the winner of this alliance. Again, I think that the most important factor that lead Mansur Yavaş to win the election was the MHP votes. They preferred Mansur Yavaş’s MHP history. The election campaign remained weak when compared to previous elections. Everything went through the discourse of Erdogan. An effective language that could contribute to him could not be established. In terms of media coverage, a disproportionate force was used but the newspapers and televisions supporting the government did not make a significant contribution beyond publishing the speeches of President Erdogan. It has been seen once again that the language of the media, which was nothing but propagandistic, did not serve its purpose very well. I can easily say that the language used by the AK Party media has aggrandized Ekrem Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas. We should not miss the fact that some mistakes made in candidate selections were reflected in the election results. Ankara has been the most striking example of this. No matter how well-known and experienced he is, the expectation that Mehmet Özhaseki could lose was understood clearly in the AK Party base even 15 days before the election. It’s true that Erdogan is very upset about Ankara, but there are no major traumas in the party base for losing the capital city. It is obvious that the masses who are disturbed by the course and some figures of the party had an impact on these results. I can set an example for important names like Hayati Yazıcı and Nurettin Canikli who lost the election in their counties in a surprising way.

You are the owner of an important news website in Turkey and you were a manager in important media institutions in the previous years. What needs to be changed or improved in the media order in Turkey?

It’s a very long issue, but let’s not forget this. The very strong and long-term power periods are both very easy and very difficult for the media. The media, cyclically, prefer to be close to strong power. In Turkey, this is normal too. For example, during coalition periods sensational news would come out of Ankara halls. I still remember the times when we announced the debates of the Council of Ministers even before the end of the meetings. But it’s hard to leak news from a strong government. The biggest problem is that the understanding that put the reporter forward is now destroyed. When reliable and experienced journalists and reporters withdrew from the media, the area was filled by social media. This actually makes things difficult for the political sphere. For the government the most, of course. We live in a period where newspaper circulation and TV watching rates are falling through the floor. And I don’t think this will change in the near future. The future of the media will be determined by the digital media.

Then we can say that inadequate names took over the mainstream newspapers and televisions in Turkey.

My answer is definitely yes. After all, these are the sources of our findings on the media. The figures that constitute the language of the media need to change. But I see this is impossible for now in today’s media order.

A group of media workers called Pelican is said to have severely damaged Erdogan. What do you think of this formation?

This is a very controversial issue. There is no need to give a name, but there is a serious opinion that the aforementioned team is the most important authors of that problematic language that I just mentioned. I see that there is a huge disproportion between what they produce and the reputation they earn. The reason for the public disorder is as follows: They’re very skilled in discrediting and expulsing people. The fact that they can wriggle themselves very easily into Erdogan makes their work even easier.

What would you like to say about the lies of imprisoning journalists in Turkey, which is frequently featured in the international press?

This is a thing that Turkey faces everywhere. I don’t think there is a journalist in Turkey who was imprisoned because of his journalism activity. The contents of the cases given as examples should be examined well. It is a fact that FETÖ propagates this view by making effective propaganda both domestically and internationally. That’s why I don’t see the need to elaborate more on this.

Finally, what is the dimension of media repression in Turkey?

Actually, I don’t think that there’s repression. When the media, which cannot produce accurate and effective content, lost its reader or audience, made it a habit to seek refuge under the pretext of power repression. We can say that some media groups are standing and even trying to grow by taking support from the government. It is also true that there are media groups that feel advertisement and commercial repression. But the media has to walk on a financial structure and a line without having to receive the support of the power. The way to do this is the right content. To produce effective content that will drag the masses.

About the Author
Emir Eksioglu, is a journalist and an entrepreneur. He published articles in important institutions such as Huff Post, Times of India, Economic Times, Jerusalem Post, U.S. News, Foreign Policy, GQ, Tehran Times and was introduced as the youngest media boss thanks to some of his investments in Turkey. He has many initiatives in technology and media fields. His biggest passion is Trabzonspor.
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