Several critical news outlets in Turkey have been slammed by their readers and former employees for running an advertisement from the pro-government Cengiz Holding on their websites, local media reported on Friday.
Cengiz Holding Chair Mehmet Cengiz is among five businessmen who are referred to by Turkey’s opposition parties as the “gang of five,” for having won nearly all the large tenders during the time in office of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to local media reports, the websites of the opposition Sözcü and Cumhuriyet newspapers and the OdaTV news website have been running a Cengiz Holding advertisement that says the holding is “one of the leading companies of Turkish industry” and that it currently employs 40,000 people.
“Cumhuriyet is a well-established newspaper that has principles. Having the ad of a holding whose boss is known for filing a TL 1 million ($73,400) lawsuit against the daily, cursing citizens, winning public tenders and damaging nature amounts to not having principles. What have they turned Cumhuriyet into?” Alican Uludağ, a former reporter for the daily, tweeted on Friday.
Cumhuriyet, ilkeleri olan köklü bir gazetedir. Gazeteye zamanında 1 milyon TL dava açmasıyla, millete ettiği küfürle, aldığı kamu ihaleleriyle ve doğaya verdiği zararlarla bilinen bir patronun holdinginin reklamını almak ilkesizliktir. Cumhuriyet'i ne hâle getirdiler?! pic.twitter.com/JW1kHlV0Fa
— Alican Uludağ (@alicanuludag) February 18, 2022
Hazal Ocak, another former reporter for the newspaper, also said in a tweet Friday that the lawsuit had been filed due to a news piece written by her that Cengiz argued had “damaged his reputation.”
“The case was concluded in our favor, but seeing this advertisement today in the institution where I became [a journalist] broke my heart, too. I simply can’t find the words,” Ocak added.
İş insanı Mehmet Cengiz yaptığım bir haber nedeniyle itibarının zedelendiği gerekçesiyle 1 milyon lira tazminat istemiyle dava açmıştı. Dava lehimize sonuçlandı ancak bugün yetiştiğim bir kurumda bu reklamı görmek benim de içimi cız ettirdi. Söyleyecek söz bulamıyorum. https://t.co/XcwdIWdwU6
— Hazal Ocak (@SHazalocak) February 18, 2022
“Cengiz Holding has silenced Cumhuriyet, Sözcü and OdaTV, which had been running critical news about it for a long time, by giving them money,” a Twitter user said, sharing photos of the news websites with the pro-government holding’s ad.
Cengiz Holding uzun süredir kendisini hedef alan haberler yapan Cumhuriyet, Sözcü ve OdaTv'yi parasını verip susturdu. pic.twitter.com/SyP3crjIIK
— Teoman Dragonov (@teomandragonov) February 18, 2022
A number of other social media users stated that they “condemned” the ads and that the outlets should be “ashamed” for having them on their websites.
“I don’t want to see ads of Cengiz Holding on your [website]. Please be sensitive about this…” a reader said in a tweet addressed to Cumhuriyet.
Gazetenizde Cengiz Holding reklamları görmek istemiyorum. Hassasiyet gösterin lütfen…@cumhuriyetgzt
— AHMET BUMİN ABODER KURUCU BAŞKAN (@Ahmet__Bumin) February 18, 2022
Cengiz, one of the world’s top 10 private sponsors of public infrastructure projects for the years 1990 to 2020, according to World Bank data, won tenders worth $42.1 billion between 2002 and 2020.
The holding first came to public attention in Turkey in late 2013, when Turkey was shaken by the news of two corruption investigations in which senior ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians were involved.
Mehmet Cengiz, who has been awarded numerous public contracts — including the construction of İstanbul’s third airport — during the 18 years of AKP rule, was heard in wiretapped phone conversations cursing the Turkish people.