Controlling the Media


Erdogan’s Media Army

Long before July 2016, ERDOGAN crafted a delicate strategy to seize control of the majority of the media outlets in the country. He applied illegal financial and judicial methods to seize control of major TV stations and newspapers. Turkish society was under constant strain due to increasing pressure on freedom of speech, closure of many national media outlets and arrests of journalists with opposing views. The overwhelming pro-ERDOGAN media was constantly attacking seculars and democrats, while the remaining media were under extreme pressure to either stay silent or broadcast in line with ERDOGAN’s rhetoric.

Most of the media owners depend on the Government for public contracts in other industrial sectors where they are active, like energy, transportation, and construction, and thus, abstain from any critique. In the Turkish television world, the most influential media venue in the country, seven of the ten most important owners are politically associated with the governing party. The path of economic and political streamlining in Turkey results inevitably in self-censorship by many journalists, who don’t want to lose their jobs[1].

One example of ERDOGAN’s employment of the media army took place during “Gezi” events of 2013, where millions of Turkish people marched against ERDOGAN and AKP for their brutal policy against the environment. During the events, ERDOGAN’s Government organized propaganda and psychological warfare with an “army” of 6,000 Twitter accounts to undermine mass demonstrations and promote the policy of the governing party, the AKP[2].

Fueling the Expectation for a Coup

Following the Turkish Government’s (ERDOGAN and his inner circle) corruption scandal, which popped up at 17 and 25 December 2013, ERDOGAN launched an enormous purge in the police and judiciary system, targeting the officials who discovered the historical scandal. That was just a start of a long lasting brutal persecution by ERDOGAN. The service of the Government controlled mouthpiece media helped ERDOGAN gradually mold the public opinion about the existence of Fethullah GULEN supporters (Gulenists) throughout Government departments. The propaganda had a deliberate emphasis on the alleged existence of thousands of supporters in the military. Since the beginning of 2014, this continuous and massive propaganda intensively addressed Turkish population. ERDOGAN wanted to cast hostility in the public against the military and portrayed himself exposed to the military intervention.

After ERDOGAN’s crippling of the police and judiciary system, the next target was Turkish Military (in Turkish, Turk Silahli Kuvvetleri -TSK). Mouthpiece media continually published stories related to so-called FETO -Fethullah GULEN Terrorist Organization- members in the military[3] [4] [5].


The image on the left depicts a headline from Sozcu newspaper claiming “Gulenist Generals exist among the military’s top command”. This intentionally aggressive, but at the same time, vague language insidiously targeted thousands of democratic and secular military personnel, who were purged after 15 July 2016.


By 2016, the stories and accusations switched to a different form, suggesting that the only salvation for Gulenist officers was a coup and they were in preparation[6] [7]. The image below depicts a headline from the “Odatv”, internet news and commentary portal, echoing a pro-ERDOGAN newspaper “Akit” and claiming “Gulenists are provoking the military for a coup”. 

Akit: “Gulenists are provoking the military for a coup:

One concrete example of such opinion came from Fuat UGUR, a well-known “aggressor” of the mouthpiece media. In the two articles he published in the pro-ERDOGAN newspaper “Türkiye”, on 2nd and 21st April 2016, UGUR claimed that the Gulenist officers were planning a coup[8].                                                                                                       

I am warning once more those (Gulenist Officers). The State is watching them. With its intelligence, the command group of Turkish Military, the Government, the police, the public, the politicians, and NGOs as a whole, Turkish state is waiting for them to commit a crime. They will be identified one by one then.”[9]   

Specials of Cemaat gathered in Ankara for a coup

Another example came from a retired TurkishAir Force officer Osman BASIBUYUK. In his article, published in “Odatv” on 8 March 2016, he stated that “Cemaat” (a Turkish term referring to Gulenists, meaning “Community” in English) was stuck in a corner and the only escape for them was a coup.

“The only solution for Cemaat: Coup”

It seems that Cemaat does not have much time. They will do whatever they can before the ‘Supreme Military Council (in Turkish, Yuksek Askeri Sura-YAS) meeting in August… Currently, Gulenist officers in Turkish Military are spoiling the anti-terror operations, instead of contributing to them. It seems the Government realized this. To finish the PKK terror and prevent the risk of a coup, the Government will start a purge in the military before August. All the signs show that. Don’t be surprised.”[10]

The propaganda was intensively extended into the social media. A striking example was ERDOGAN’s election campaign coordinator Erol OLCOK, who released a series of tweets from his account “Fotograf & Siyaset” on 10 July 2016.

Signals to the coup on July 10 on Twitter by Erdogan’s campaign coordinator

In his tweets shown above, he signaled that a giant and destructive operation by ERDOGAN against Kemalists, Secularists and Gulenists in the military was imminent.

He stated that after this operation, there would be no obstacle left between ERDOGAN and founding a new Caliphate, and taking over ultimate control of the Military.

OLCOK was echoed by other AKP proxies on Twitter. One example was the tweeter account, “eski_Istanbulum”, repeated the message same day[11]. Another example was an early 15th of July tweet by Furkan GOK, head of the AKP’s militia “Osmanli Ocaklari” in Istanbul: “The western minded and parallel ones in the military, your death is soon, wait and see!”[12]

“Personnel who would be purged at the Supreme Military Council meeting have been identified”

While these coup allegations were occupying newspaper columns, August 2016 Supreme Military Council (YAS) meeting was brought up. The constant propaganda was that thousands of Gulenists would be ejected from the military at this event. A headline from “Odatv” above states; (those Gulenist) personnel who would be purged at the Supreme Military Council meeting have been identified”.

A headline from “Odatv” on the right echoes a pro-ERDOGAN journalist Rasim Ozan KUTAHYALI, stating If the Chief of Turkish Military Gen Hulusi AKAR resists cleansing of Gulenists, he will have to resign”. This was part of the other side of the propaganda, aiming at the Chief of the Turkish Military, General (Gen) Hulusi AKAR, because of his hesitance to support Government dictated purges. The Government media forced him either to comply with the Government or to resign.

If the Chief of Turkish Military Gen Hulusi AKAR resists cleansing of Gulenists, he will have to resign

In February 2016, Fatma Sibel YUKSEK reported on a famous intelligence news website, “”, that ERDOGAN hoped to consolidate his presidential power to a full executive presidency by manipulating a coup attempt[13]. YUKSEK, a self-declared ultra-nationalist, was a suspect during the Ergenekon trials a few years earlier. The title of her reporting was interesting: “RTE’s (Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN’s) hope to become a full president by a coup”. “Obviously a coup would serve as a medicine for him. What can be more desirable for Tayyip ERDOGAN than adding a title as ‘the leader that defeated the coup’ to his successful political career?”

ERDOGAN’s hope to become a full president by a coup

By the beginning of July 2016, the “first wave” arrest warrants were ordered by the Izmir  Prosecutor against some military officers, including admirals. The rationale was ostensibly related to an investigation related to “Spying Scandal in the military”[14]. Government-affiliated newspapers targeted those officials and stated that this is just a beginning of the “big operations”.








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