At a time in which the government is preparing to confiscate the Demirören Group’s famous luxury residence of Kemer Country in İstanbul, Ruhat Mengi, a journalist who is known for her criticism of the government, has lost her job at the Vatan daily, owned by the same conglomerate.
According to an investigation by Today’s Zaman, the ministries of finance, culture and tourism and forestry and water affairs have begun the process of confiscating Kemer Country, where celebrity figures from the worlds of finance and the arts maintain luxurious residences, on the grounds that some buildings in the area contravene planning regulations.
The first step of the process was a decision from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in July, when the ministry cancelled all the licenses it had given for the area on the grounds that it was not being used as a tourism facility. Following this, the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs cancelled the permission it gave for the use of forested land in the area, and the Finance Ministry decided that the registry of title deeds in the area is against the law because there has been construction in violation of the licenses given.
The three ministries are expected to convey their decisions to Kemer Construction and Tourism Corporation soon.
The majority of Kemer Country’s shares are owned by the Demirören Group, which is also the owner of Vatan.
The daily’s sacking of Mengi, who founded the newspaper with her husband Güngör Mengi, has once again highlighted Turkish media bosses’ difficult choice between freedom of the press and their commercial interests.
Increasing numbers of media bosses in Turkey, who often possess businesses in other sectors, tend to influence the editorial policies of their media holdings and down-tune criticism of the government, sometimes by firing certain journalists.
In remarks to Today’s Zaman, Mengi stated that she was fired from Vatan with no explanation or forewarning. She had been expecting such a move, however, as she knew that many journalists who direct criticism at the government have lost their jobs, she said.
Mengi said that, although she is known as an anti-government journalist, her stance has nothing to do with the current government, because a journalist’s duty is to relay the mistakes of all governments to the public.
“When the media, an important element in a democracy, is under the control of the government, the government should not speak about the virtues of democracy, a civilian constitution and freedom of the press. Also, we cannot criticize Middle Eastern countries for a lack of democracy,” she told Today’s Zaman. According to Mengi, most newspapers and TV stations in Turkey are engaged in “brainwashing” because they only report things that are favorable to the government, avoiding any criticism.
She also stated that when the government is using the media for its own purposes and exposing the people to such levels of government propaganda, it should not claim that they were elected by the nation’s will after the elections to be held next year.