Propaganda in Turkey
By Felix Kostersitz
There are not many countries all over the world where propaganda is practiced like in Turkey. Although the country is officially a parliamentary democracy, many Europeans consider President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (almost) as a dictator who infiltrates the population. I talked to Muhammed Özdemir, a 23-year-old Austrian who was born and raised in Turkey. Today he studies journalism in Vienna. He talks about propaganda in his country of origin.
“Over the last years many journalistic institutions have been shut down in Turkey. Just overnight. Because of Erdogan of course. The media houses, which spread unfavourable stories about Erdogan, don’t have a chance of existence in Turkey. They have to fear prison. And the charges are often purely fictional“, says the 23 year old student, who still has family in Turkey.
“Yurtta Sulh, Cihanda Sulh” – Peace at home, peace in the world. This is the slogan of Erdogan and his external policy. However, those who think Turkey is blessed with peace, press freedom and freedom of speech in general are mistaken or just deniers of reality. There is no country all over the world where more journalists are in jail than in Turkey. While the Turkish foreign minister claims that “there is not a single journalist in jail”, the Turkish platform “BAĞIMSIZ GAZETECİLİK PLATFORMU P24A” (platform for independent journalism P24) wrote about 155 imprisoned journalists in March 2017. A clear censorship of press freedom. According to Muhammed, since the referendum for the presidential system in April, which Erdogan just won, it got even harder to fight against the oppression in his country.
The cardinal element for Erdogan’s propaganda policy is the state-led media network, including several media houses. “ The Turkish TV channel TRT is a perfect example for the propaganda in Turkey. Media, which is supportive towards the president, just spread their own versions of news. And they are of course Pro Erdogan. The AKP-government just tries to misinform people and to infiltrate them in a way.”
But not just TV-stations, the newspaper “Sabah” is also controlled by Erdogan and practices baiting for the president. They once published on their front page the headline “You are fighting in vain. Your power is not enough to stop Turkey. Hey Europe… Hey Germany… Hey Holland… Hey fascists… Hey Nazi-remains… Hey Bild… Do you think we are afraid of your shouting, your fuss and your immoral aspersions?”
But according to Muhammed, propaganda in Turkey digs much deeper than this. “In July, Erdogan’s government hacked almost every smartphone in the country just to deliver a message from the president himself. That’s what I call propaganda.”
Moreover, propaganda in Turkey is not limited to news in TV, newspapers or radio. Even TV series, broadcasted from the TRT, glorify the Turkish president. In the show “Payitaht Abdülhamid” Erdogan is viewed as an historic leader, who fights the “evil and Christian Western World”.
Muhammed himself is happy that he is entitled to study journalism in Vienna without any restrictions. In his eyes that would not be possible at all in Turkey.
“I am convinced and sad that in Turkey we’re not just far away from press freedom, but also far away from freedom of speech in general.”