Yavuz Baydar has been working as a journalist for over 40 years, and most of that time he has spent defending Turkish journalism. He was Turkey’s first news ombudsman at the daily paper Milliyet, and was himself forced out of his job on two occasions for his critiques of fabricated news stories. In the first part of this interview, which has been edited for concision, Yavuz describes Turkish media before Erdogan and the growth of Turkey’s large media moguls in the 1990s. These conglomerates more or less created mainstream media in Turkey, but they also discovered its usefulness for political influence. In our conversation, Yavuz discusses how President Erdogan learned that lesson and then continued to change the game.*
*This conversation took place in December of last year and has been edited for concision.
After we recorded, Turkey and Syria were devastated by a catastrophic earthquake that left more than 50,000 dead. The effects of Turkey’s loss of press freedom were felt immediately. Erdogan’s response to the disaster was to shut down Twitter—crucial for rescue efforts— fine three news networks who had taken a critical line against the government, and give a speech promising retribution for those who had spoken out.