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The Fourth Emerging Power in the Middle East:
Redefining the Turkish Media's Role & Future

-- The Turkish Parliament enlarged the view and
power of the Turkish Media

Conference - April 2, 200

-- For Introductory
by Prof. Edward FOSTER

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS



A conference titled as, "The Fourth Emerging Power in the Middle East: Redefining the Turkish Media`s Role & Future" by Nuri M. ÇOLAKOGLU, was organized by Light Millennium, a not-for- profit Organization in tandem with the Stevens Institude of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey on April 2, 2004.

Being an expert in both national and international media for almost forty years, Çolakoglu gave a detailed speech enlightening the audience about the recent developments in Turkey and the role, future and significance of Turkish Media in the Middle East.


1. Q: We are on the initiative that we are on the way of EU so everything is pulled back. If everything is really pink and rosy and AKP is as sincere as they claim why do you think dark green Islam is moving north? Do you think AKP has anything to do with that?



Mr. Çolakoglu
: First of all, I wasn't trying to draw any pink and rosy picture. Secondly, I agree with you that there are some important doubts about AKP. AKP is not a united party because it has a very short history just like Anavatan
Party, which was created by bringing together very quickly different factions and groups under the same room. We have to see which way they are going. Neither Islamic political movements, nor any other political movements can be put under one single flank. There are different tones from dark green to light green, from conservative to radical Islam, political Islam, and militant Islam.

I don't think the bombings in Istanbul have anything to do with AKP because AKP was the one who was very badly hit because of the bombings. They have been trying to correct their standing and they really pulled for it and apprehension of those culprits also is a positive thing in Turkey. They quickly investigated both the Masonic bombing and the bombing of the two synagogues in Istanbul. Those people involved in the incidents have been caught and now the public knows everything in detail. They found who were behind it, who were involved or how the connections developed. I think that the Turkish police is getting more and more keen on these groups. Because for a long time after the coup of 1980 when the military government, in order to cope with the growing left militancy and the rise of the communism in Turkey, tried to introduce Islam to the Turkish political life. They even put a clause in the constitution which made religious education in the high school as a compulsory practice. It is this tendency which we still try to fight to wind back.

Under those circumstances nobody can be sure of anybody's intentions unless you are in the brain of that person. All you have to do is "watch". In my presentation, I refrained from passing verdicts or judgments but citing the facts because I believe in the intelligence of people who listen. They can put those facts together and drive their own conclusions. I have respect for everybody's conclusion and it is normal to have different ideas.

2. Q: AKP government made more appointments with TRT in one year than the previous governments made in three years. How do you think this affected the independent media and why did AKP do this?

Mr. Çolakoglu: TRT has always been the hunting ground of the governments. It is hard to understand why governments are so keen about trying to get the hands on TRT when its viewership is dipping below 5%. No matter what you do on TRT your voice only reaches to 4-5%, a very irrelevant fraction of people. But, yes the governments still want to see themselves on TV every night.

There is a good story about our beloved former President Suleyman Demirel. Every night when he comes home around 8:00 pm, he tells her wife "Turn on the TV, so that we can see what the man has said today." He was talking about himself. We will have to see what AKP will do with the radio and TV they will end up with. Are we going to see more Islamic colors in TV or are we going to practice more of government propaganda? Most probably we will see more ministers on TRT. It may not be right, but it's going to take some time to get those things right.

Though they love to watch themselves in TV, I don't believe in the power of media to that extent. Had the media had such a power of converting societies or regulating the world, we would have probably never have seen the changes that we saw in the Soviet Union. The people in the Soviet Union were bombarded, almost for seventy five years, with the same slogan, and ideology over radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, cinemas and billboards. Then, one day somebody left the door ajar and in one night everything changed.

Even though media has no power to make people to take major turn around, it can be very powerful if their message has already been something in the minds, in the hearts and in the lives of the public. If you are really addressing what people are thinking and their looking for a way then you can get the masses going and move the people around. This was the case in Turkey on 28 February in 1997. People had very strong doubts about where the ruling government of Erbakan and Ciller were taking Turkey to. At that moment, the media started a campaign "turn the lights off for a minute", which got enormous response in Turkey and it started a chain reaction which brought the government down within 6 months.

3. Q: AKP took over Uzan Holding, Star newspaper and TV stations because they owe money to the government. They took Uzan's media operations as well as management of the editorial. Did they do it to avoid the criticisms about AKP and how this affects democratization?

Mr. Çolakoglu: All of you know that Uzan Group had robbed Turkey around $8.5 billion. So whichever government is in place, it has a right to confiscate whatever they can find in order to get back the money that has been stolen from the people. Not only their media operations but also telephone, banking, and other assets had to be confiscated in order to pay back these amounts.

Unfortunately in Uzan Group, it looks like it turns into a big crime. All the backups and the complicated operations showed that they have been preplanned and very well premeditated. For the ones who don't know Uzan Group, they had launched the very first private TV channel in Turkey, Star TV. Then, they introduced the Star newspaper. At last they launched the political party named, Genc Party, in 2002. And this party fought the elections on a platform which was totally anti- US, anti-Europe, and anti-solution to Cyprus. However, they managed to take the votes of a large chunk of conservative nationalists in Turkey. They wound up with 7.5% using all the means of their media operations. When the whole event broke out, they lost ground and their position quite dramatically in the last elections.

 


4. Q: As you have mentioned Turkish media is concentrated in few hands. How does it affect the democratization when a group controls %40 of media? Could they use that advantage to manipulate the public's opinion to their favor?

Mr. Çolakoglu: Such a concentration is not a reasonable situation and we should do something about it, but what should be done is another problem. How can we make the other newspapers sell? Couple of distribution networks distributes all papers and there is no way of stopping anybody's distribution in Turkey. It has been tried, but that didn't work. Because there are various outlets of distribution, it is working. Therefore, the thing to fight for is not only concentration of media but also establishing editorial integrity. Separating the publisher from intervening into the editorial content is not the case in Turkey any more. It's always the owners who set the policies of the newspapers who were journalists for a long time. As I've mentioned before, in the second phase when the big business came into interest, everything changed.

5. Q: Majority of the Turkish media has been caught unprepared to the victory of AKP and most of them were against them. What happened, why couldn't they see that AKP was coming?

Mr. Çolakoglu: Until November 2002, Turkish media was totally against AKP, and they were publishing lots of criticism. All the campaigns against AKP did not stop them; in fact maybe it fueled AKP's coming into power. As seen in that example media doesn't really have strong muscles in Turkey. But I don't think that media was able to predict AKP's coming. They just didn't want to see, accept, or report it, because that was against their beliefs. They had better relations with the ongoing parties; however; those relations didn't stay well after they lost their power.

If we want to change things in Turkey we have to create a credible alternative; clean, respectable, secular alternative. But unfortunately we don't see such an attempt. When you look at the political map in Turkey within 24 parties, 20 of them are secular. Because they are fighting against each other, they can't unite on one single party and they perish very easily.

6. Q: Turkey is known with its corrupt democracy, politicians, which are also believed to extend beneficially corrupt newspapers. Could you comment on that please?

Mr. Çolakoglu: Turkey really needs to clean up the stables. AKP is getting %42 of the votes not because people want to see an Islamic party in power, but they don't want to see a corrupt party in power. When we look at the voting process in Turkey, we see that the people vote by negative selection. In Turkey there are not more than %20 committed electors. For the rest, the people look at all the parties in race, first decide whom they don't want to vote for, and they come up with a short list. Then they evaluate who is going to harm them less, and they vote for that party. Since 1980, in every election the leading party changed. In 1987 it was ANAP, in 1991 it was DYP, in 1995 it was Refah Party, and then the Ecevit government DSP. The Turkish electors are well wishing, and they give every party a chance. When a party doesn't succeed, they knock them off. This is the best thing about the electors in our country.

7. Q: What role should media play in Turkey? Is there a Turkish interest if there is what is it? Especially with the internalization of ownership, how the media is going to secure Turkish interest?

Mr. Çolakoglu: In Turkey people know the policy of newspapers they are reading and because it is a voluntary relationship, people tend to follow the newspapers whose policies they like. So people's thoughts probably fluctuate along with the editors of those newspapers.

What goes or doesn't go into a newspaper, changes. But I believe that there should be universal criteria about it. As the chairman of Turkish Broadcasters Association, at which all the leading channels are members with my colleagues; we are trying to bring a set of specific criterion in broadcasting in Turkey. TV usage has changed dramatically in Turkey within 5 years. There are no horrifying, bloody scenes anymore thanks to our persuasions. We don't have much foreign capital in media. CNN-Turk which is %25 Time Warner, %27 Dogan Group is created as a Turkish channel. Additionally, there is CNBC-e which is a franchise agreement and channels like MTV and Discovery that are paid for and come on screen in Turkish.

_ . _
 

Right to left: Nuri M. ÇOLAKOGLU, Prof. Edward FOSTER, Erhan BERBER, M.D., and
Bircan ÜNVER after the conference at the Kidde lecture hall of the Stevens Institute of
Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

_ . _


Special thanks to Hande Ilsever and Gokce Ilsever for the transcription.
Also special thanks to Ayça Bahçe.

-- Introductory by Prof. Edward Foster

-- The Turkish Parliament enlarged the view and
power of the Turkish Media

--Media Release of the conference - April 10, 2004

- Turkish media executive Çolakoglu to speak at Stevens

http://www.stevensnewsservice.com/pr/pr411.htm


--Announcement of the conference by Light Millennium: March 3, 2004

The Light Millennium, April 2004, New York.

   
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THE BRIGHTEST AND HAPPINESS YEAR OF MY LIFE IN ALL MEANINGS... Everything has been emerging since the beginning of this year... B.Ü. June 26, 2004