While the scandal surrounding the government seizure of Associated Press records continues to percolate in Washington, such state intrusion on the press would seem positively mild inside Turkey where, today, most journalists assume they are being tapped. It is near impossible to talk politics with Turkish journalists before everyone at the table first takes batteries out of their cell phones. The judiciary has been tapped, as have newspapers.
Erdoğan has stacked previously apolitical bodies with his own party hacks, and transformed technocratic institutions to wield against the press. He has had them, for example, levy fines of billions of dollars to silence some outfits, and seized and sold at auction another. The sole bidder (after others dropped out because of political pressure)? Erdoğan’s son-in-law. Ironically, it was Sabah—the once-opposition paper confiscated by Erdoğan and given to his son-in-law—that President Obama chose to contribute a glowing op-ed to on the occasion of Erdoğan’s visit to Turkey.
Now, against the backdrop of Obama’s glowing endorsement comes word that a financial body solely consisting of Erdoğan’s appointees has seized one of the last conglomerates which owns independent newspapers and television.
I have a bridge over the Bosphorus to sell anyone who still believes that the reforms that Erdoğan has implemented will push Turkey closer to democracy. Erdoğan cares little about democracy; he wishes domination, personal enrichment, and a complete transformation of Turkish society that is impossible to achieve if anyone can ask questions or expose his actions. That he uses a state visit to the United States as cover for his actions is truly shameful.