Turkish media mogul Aydın Doğan had to choose between jail and selling his giant Doğan Media Group to the pro-government Demirören Holding, veteran journalist Ayşenur Arslan of channel Tele1 told German-based Turkish media outlet Özgürüz.
According to a report by online news outlet Ahval on Friday, Arslan said: “He had to do it. It had gotten to the point where if he didn’t go, if he didn’t sell, if he didn’t withdraw from the media, his going to prison in the Feb. 28 case was in the cards.”
In the aftermath of the Feb. 28, 1997, so-called “postmodern coup,” Doğan’s media assets were seen as sympathetic to the military that ousted the Islamist predecessor of the current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from government. The Doğan group peaked in 2002 with control of more than half the Turkish media audience but has been battling a hostile AKP government that came to power that year ever since.
“For 20 or so days after Feb. 28 we read and listened to [threats towards Doğan] continuously, in what pro-government columnists were writing and what was being said,” Arslan said. “They used Feb. 28 as a stick, and Aydın Doğan got the message.”
“Kanal D is one of Turkey’s five or six main stations, an incredibly big channel. CNN Türk, Hürriyet – the group’s flagships. Posta is another of the newspapers that are among the highest-selling in the media. D-Smart [satellite service], TV2, Dream TV, Yay-Sat distribution company. For all of these to be sold for $890 million shows that Aydın Doğan was forced to choose: ‘Should I die in prison or should I be grateful for the money and go away?’”
Increasing his control of the Turkish media to around 90 percent would help President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2019 elections, Arslan said, and there was little chance that the competition commission would object to the sale. “In a system that does not listen to Constitutional Court decisions, will they listen to competition commission decisions? Will the competition commission dare to talk about this? I very much doubt it,” she said.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 20, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 190 were under arrest pending trial while only 55 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 139 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.