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Turkish Media Drifting Toward an Abyss

The crisis at Sabah and Milliyet, two of Turkey’s flagship newpapers, has deepened under persistent political pressure, sounding the alarm for the country’s media.
A trader reads a newspaper with the headline that reads "AK Party Term", during the morning session at the Istanbul Stock Exchange June 13, 2011. Turkish stocks rose on Monday after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party won Sunday's parliamentary election to secure a third term of single-party rule. The AK Party won 50 percent of the vote to give Erdogan a third consecutive term. But the AK Party's parliamentary majority slipped, as it won 326 seats, down from 331 in the previous assembly. REUTERS/Murad

Turkey’s bleeding media is drifting fast into an abyss, which may soon become the final resting place of free and independent journalism in Turkey. The crisis at the Milliyet daily, a major hallmark in the Turkish press, deepened this week as editor-in-chief Derya Sazak resigned and columnist Can Dundar was fired in a phone call by the daily’s owner himself. The turmoil at Milliyet had boiled over earlier this year when veteran journalist Hasan Cemal was forced to quit after he criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the media establishment. Fears are rife that the political “cleansing” at the paper will extend to other writers. 

A similar climate of fear has gripped the Sabah newspaper. Some reporters have been shown the door. At least two columnists have recently been censored on “orders” by management (one was critical of political counseling, while the other of the tax inspectors’ raid at TUPRAS, a company owned by the Koc business family, which has become the target of government ire). 

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