Don’t Mute The Messenger
Ask why we read the Hürriyet Daily News and you shall receive this İnegöl rendition of Romeo and Juliet. There’s no Leo, but there’s an urban legend, a mysterious grave and a lesson on the human condition: government-friendly media entertains best when the news cycle turns dark.
Stay informed, click here for our latest reports on the impacts of reconstruction in Diyarbakır by İnanç Yıldız and Iranian tourism in Van by Gonca Tokyol. And journalists: send your story ideas to email@example.com.
Apart from more anxiety, the disinformation bill is already inspiring dystopian artwork. The amendment to penalize the spread of vaguely defined “false information” went into effect Tuesday, leaving public figures, journalists and pretty much all social media users wondering how it will be applied.
Guess we’ll find out. Plenty has been written on what the law does and what it means for democratic rights ahead of next year’s elections, though basically, the government is evolving its censorship strategy from micro-managing and throttling social media sites to micro-managing and throttling people.
It’s been a long road to get here, and now that we’ve passed the “we’re-finished line,” discussions are centered on whether this was inevitable given the AKP-MHP parliamentary majority and whether opposition parties could have done more to stop it, not just after the fact, as the CHP is now contesting the bill (which Turkey recap was the first to report on).
Consultant Önder Algedik wrote, “All summer long, the opposition did not explain the bill to the public” or raise awareness of what was coming, noting mainly journalism organizations rallied against the bill. This also reflects what international press freedom advocates noted in recent meetings with the Table of Six parties, which visiting delegation members said did not appear overly concerned about the law.
Notably, the advocates said Gelecek party members expressed the most concern of the six, along with members of the leftist party alliance. Also worth noting, according to the delegation, the Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission said it had not received any complaints about press freedom in Turkey. The delegation’s advice: start filing complaints.
What can outside observers do? It’s hard to tell, but simply funding Turkish journalism platforms might not be enough this time. While Turkey recap itself has benefitted from some funding, and we are deeply thankful for it, I increasingly see such mitigation between states as the equivalent of buying carbon offsets for a flight.
Just as carbon offsets permit business as usual while quieting the conscience – polluting one place while planting trees elsewhere – a soft response to the disinformation law will quiet the conscious in Turkey and plant journalists elsewhere. Likely in a country near you.
– Diego Cupolo
Mining disaster kills 41
Friday evening an explosion in a coal mine shook Amasra, killing 41 mine workers and injuring 11. “Words are not enough to describe it,” one rescuer told AFP, as efforts to retrieve the victims’ bodies continued till Saturday morning in the Black Sea province of Bartın.
While small mining villages mourned their losses, relatives said some miners had noticed a gas smell days before the blast. Talking to Erdoğan, who visited the scene to offer his condolences, one of them was quoted as saying: "President, my brother knew, he said there was a gas leak 10, 15 days ago … He said 'they will explode us here'... He knew it."
While the official cause is still under investigation, additional discontent came in the form of a government report shared by a CHP lawmaker, who noted it warned of an explosion risk in 2019, which the state-owned mine denied. Erdoğan's speech at the blast site Saturday also sparked controversy after he said these kinds of accidents can happen: “We are people that believe in the plan of destiny.”
Referring to Turkey’s history of mining incidents and negligence, Başaran Aksu, a volunteer for the independent Maden İş mining union, called the event a massacre of workers and said he had little hope it would lead to systemic changes in working conditions or safety measures.
Speaking to Turkey recap from Amasra Saturday, Aksu referred to the Soma mining disaster in 2014, where 301 people died: “After such an incident happens, for a few days, maybe a week or a month people talk about this, then the topic changes, it will be forgotten again and the families of the workers are left on their own, with all the pain and suffering.”
Turkey's central bank lowered its benchmark interest rate to 10.50 percent Thursday. A 100 basis point cut was forecasted after Erdoğan said that "as long as he was in power, the interest would continue to fall," but the CBRT still managed to surprise us by going beyond expectations.
We are only one step away from a single-digit rate, and the Monetary Policy Committee announced after the decision that it would consider another cut at the following meeting and ending the rate cut cycle. Bloomberg economist Selva Bahar Baziki believes “that may be the only target the central bank meets this year.”
Still, we have at least one thing aiming at the skies as the policy rate plummets: pre-election spending. The Turkish Treasury is preparing to end the year with a deficit of about 25 billion USD. The FT reports this means a huge spending spree is on the way. "I'm expecting them to do everything in their power," said Gülçin Özkan, a King's College finance professor. "Nothing would surprise me."
While Environment and Urban Planning Min. Murat Kurum denied interpretations that increased spending sought to bolster the AKP's popularity before elections, the dramatic increase in energy subsidies in next year’s draft budget and the near-certainty of another hike in the minimum wage show something else, experts argue.
According to economist Atilla Yeşilada, Erdoğan won't be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat this time, and pre-election economic conditions will not create major changes in voter preferences. “Those moves will only create another currency shock similar to the one Turkey faced last year,” he warned.
While the Turkish leader said Wednesday he agreed on the issue with Putin, experts are more skeptical. As Europe tries to reduce its dependence on Russia for gas and other resources, French Pres. Macron’s office told AFP the plan didn’t make sense. Additionally, the costs and time required to build the infrastructure raises additional feasibility questions.
Due to expire in November, the grain deal was also reportedly on the table in Astana. Turkey and Ukraine discussed the extension, but Russia is threatening to quit the deal if complaints concerning Russian agriculture and fertilizers exports are not resolved, Reuters reported.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine also remains high on the agenda between Turkish and US officials, most notably regarding Ankara’s compliance with sanctions. And so, Elizabeth Rosenberg, assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes at the US Treasury, visited Turkey this week.
Rosenberg had meetings with bankers and businesses to discuss “sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia …, energy security, anti-money laundering policy, and countering the financing of terrorism,” according to a Treasury statement.
Earlier this week, Presidential spox İbrahim Kalın and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had a call to discuss the war, but Kalın also brought up Turkey’s expectation for the “unconditional completion” of the F-16 negotiations. After the removal of two sales conditions last week, Ankara is optimistic about its prospects, Al-Monitor reports.
Less optimistic was Ankara’s reaction to a White House declaration on Syria that states Turkish threats of a cross-border invasion undermine the fight against IS. The MFA responded with a statement calling it: “Baseless allegations and accusations.”
In other foreign news, Stockholm’s new government pledged to continue abiding by the three-way NATO agreement signed by Turkey, Sweden and Finland. Apart from Turkey, the only other country that has yet to ratify the bloc’s expansion is Hungary, whose vote might be harder to get than a tampon in İstanbul Airport.
Dark side of the Evros
Along the Evros, the border river between Greece and Turkey, another news event is pointing to the ill-treatment of refugees by border police. This time the Greek police reportedly found 92 naked migrants that crossed from Turkey, depicted in this photo tweeted by the Greek migration minister Saturday.
Stealing clothes, phones and other belongings from pushed back refugees has long been a common but humiliating practice along the border, though such moves are better documented on the Greek side and with Frontex cover ups than what happens on the Turkish side of the border.
The incident sparked back and forth accusations, with the Turkish MFA denouncing the “baseless claims of Greece” adding photographs of injured migrants allegedly pushed back from Greece. The UN demanded an urgent investigation into the matter.
Dog bite at the museum
And Turkey’s museum scene is thriving – and not just because of the İstanbul Biennial.
The nation’s first zoology museum is reopening at its new location and a notorious Diyarbakır prison will become a museum after it was transferred from the Justice Ministry to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. (Hey, if rewriting the past worked for ‘BongBong’ Marcos, it’s gotta work here.)
How Turkish media is covering Syrian refugees (IJNet)
Past decade saw drastic increase in Türkiye's prison population, ministry figures show (Bianet)
Are Syria’s HTS jihadis Turkey’s new friends? (Al-Monitor)
Turkish troops deploy in Syrian town to halt inter-rebel fighting (Reuters)
'Ninety-five percent of Türkiye's women agricultural workers work informally' (Bianet)
Turkey Said to Test-Fire Secretly Built Ballistic Missile (Bloomberg)
Turkish Police Arrest 543 in Crackdown Against ‘Reorganized’ Gulenists (Balkan Insight)
Iranian dancer in Turkey says she believes protests will end Tehran's 'cruelty' (Reuters)
Turkish ministry says stray mine in Black Sea defused (DS)
Taliban official attends religious conference in Diyarbakır, says 'we recognize Kurdistan' (Bianet)
The Turkish Economy under the Presidential System
Independent financial advisor M. Murat Kubilay holds no punches, blaming Turkey’s presidential system for the country’s economic woes, arguing: “Prosperity has been lost and institutionalism eroded. Without a comprehensive overhaul of the system and its administrators, there is no chance of a sustainable recovery for the Turkish economy.” (MEI)
The SDF Is Caught Between Turkey and the Islamic State Again
Pointing to intensified Turkish drone strikes against SDF positions, analyst Ido Levy calls on Washington to take a tougher stance against Ankara’s invasion threats, writing: “SDF leaders have felt compelled to focus more on preparing for a potential Turkish invasion … at the expense of the fight against IS.” (Washington Institute)
Legislative Body in Turkey
In the sixth of a 10-report series on Turkey’s political system, law professor Osman Can delivers and 44-page review of parliamentary history before outlining the maladies and possible remedies for the current presidential system, noting it’s difficult to predict what might happen “if the President is a member of one party, and the parliamentary majority belongs to a different party.” (Ankara Institute)
The New Civil-Military Relations in Turkey
Assessing the relationship between the military (TSK) and politics, scholar Nil Satana argues: “If the AKP stays in power, the TSK will remain under the regime’s grip, acting as Erdoğan’s private army. If the opposition wins the upcoming 2023 elections … the TSK remains under democratically accountable civilian control.” (MEI)
Oct 21 The trial of Turkish pop star Gülşen begins in İstanbul (background)
Oct 24 ELIAMED hosts a webinar titled "Post-Kemalism and the Future of Turkish Governance" at 1400 GMT
Oct 25 Trial of singer Ferhat Tunç resumes in İstanbul (background)
Oct 27 TurkStat publishes Q3 2022 tourism statistics
Oct 27 The trial of journalist Sibel Hürtaş resumes in Ankara (background)
Oct 27 Turkey's Central Bank releases its quarterly inflation report
Diego Cupolo, co-founder + editor @diegocupolo
Verda Uyar, freelance journalist @verdauyar
Ingrid Woudwijk, freelance journalist @deingrid
Gonca Tokyol, freelance journalist @goncatokyol
Batuhan Üsküp, editorial intern @batuskup