Doğan group fires TV presenter who says ‘no’ to new charter

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İrfan Değirmenci

Turkey’s Doğan Media Group has fired İrfan Değirmenci, a presenter on Kanal D, because he declared on social media that he would vote “no” in a referendum that will be held April 16 on constitutional amendments which will open the way to a switch from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency, news website Diken reported on Saturday.

Değirmenci declared in 20 messages he posted on Feb. 10 that he would vote “no” in the referendum: “’No’ to the one who sees scientists, artists, writers, cartoonists, students, workers, farmers, miners, journalists and all who do not obey as the enemy.”

“With his messages posted on social media on Feb. 10, our colleague İran Değirmenci clearly took a side in a topic that is being debated among the public. Therefore, we are canceling his contract,” said the Doğan Media Group in a statement on Saturday.

Last week the contract of the Doğan group’s Posta daily columnist Hakan Çelenk was reportedly cancelled by the newspaper days after he sarcastically criticized government plans for the presidential referendum.

The Doğan group, however, did not fire Fatih Çekirge despite his announcement that he would vote in favor of the referendum in his column last month.

One of the largest media groups in Turkey, the Doğan Media Group has been under fire for succumbing to the control of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The group announced last month that journalist Ahmet Hakan had been appointed as the head of the group’s TV station Kanal D.

The group and Hakan are being widely criticized for abandoning critical journalism and yielding to growing government pressure on the media in Turkey.

In his columns Hakan, who used to maintain a critical stance, avoids any sharp criticism of the government and repeats the government’s narrative on controversial issues.

The personal emails of Turkey’s energy minister and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, which were leaked by RedHack in September and by Wikileaks in December, showed that media mogul Aydın Doğan bowed to President Erdoğan and along with his media outlets became an ardent supporter of the president.

In a series of emails, correspondence between Doğan Media Group Director General Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ, who is also the son-in-law of Aydın Doğan, and President Erdoğan’s Executive Assistant Hasan Doğan shows how the media re-adjusted and re-shaped its editorial line and media coverage in line with the government’s needs and whims.

The two men exchanged views and updated each other about certain journalists and editors at the Hürriyet newspaper and discussed a new editor-in-chief to succeed Sedat Ergin and a new Ankara representatives to follow Deniz Zeyrek. Yalçındağ proposes Ahmet Hakan and Hande Fırat as trustworthy candidates.

The Hürriyet daily’s Ankara representative, Zeyrek, was replaced in December by the Ankara bureau chief of CNNTürk, Fırat, who aired a FaceTime message from President Erdoğan on the evening of a coup attempt in July.

Veteran Turkish journalist Ayşenur Arslan, who quit her daily program “Medya Mahallesi” (Media Neighborhood) on Halk TV in December to protest government pressure on journalists, claimed that “the order to replace Zeyrek came from the presidential palace.” Arslan said pressure on journalists has increased since the resignation of Yalçındağ over an email scandal in September.

Additionally, what the leaked emails also reveal is the fact that Yalçındağ constantly kept Serhat Albayrak, brother of Energy Minister Albayrak and CEO of Turkuvaz Media, which runs the Sabah newspaper and the ATV and A Haber television stations, informed about staff meetings at Doğan media and the new editorial policies.

In an email sent on May 6, 2016, Yalçındağ points out that Doğan media is ready to endorse Erdoğan’s ambitious bid for the introduction of an executive presidency in Turkey and to support the government in its fight against the Gülen movement.

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