Istanbul, Oct 5 () - Aydın Doğan, the founder and honorary chairman of Doğan Holding, has said that Turkey’s largest media group “does not have to be pro-government” amid rising pressure and violence targeting the company and its workers.
Stressing that he has been a media owner for almost 40 years, Doğan said this is the first time he has seen journalists face such attacks.
He was speaking after visiting daily Hürriyet columnist and CNN Türk program host Ahmet Hakan on Oct. 3, after Hakan was injured in an assault by four men in front of his home on Oct. 1. Both Hürriyet and CNN Türk are owned by the Doğan Media Group.
“My media group is the most careful media group in covering news about [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and his family. But we are independent. I don’t have to be pro-government, but I’m also not anti-government” Doğan told journalists.
“This government does not accept independent media. It considers anyone not siding with it as its foe” he added.
Doğan Holding’s media outlets and its journalists have been physically assaulted and threatened ahead of the upcoming snap election on Nov. 1. Hürriyet’s Istanbul headquarters were pelted with stones by mobs on Sept. 6 and Sept. 8 and a number of its journalists have received death threats.
Turkey’s national press bodies, as well as foreign officials and international journalism associations, have described the attacks as a part of a wider campaign to intimidate Doğan Media and its journalists. Opposition parties have accused Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) over their stance on press freedom.
Erdoğan has repeatedly claimed in interviews and speeches that Aydın Doğan once told him years ago that “there were times when we [Doğan Media] made governments come and go.” In response, Doğan stated in a recent open letter to Erdoğan and in a separate public statement that he never claimed the media can “replace governments.”
When asked by journalists about this letter after his visit to Hakan’s house on Oct. 3, Doğan said it was not a “challenge” to Erdoğan.
“He is a person elected by 52 percent of people. I only say that I did not utter those words. I wrote the letter because he may be remembering it wrongly or confusing it with something else,” he said.
Doğan stressed that he has been a media owner for almost 40 years and has previously been targeted by a number of power circles including the mafia and military coup leaders.
“But for the first time I’m seeing journalists face such attacks,” he said, urging the authorities to find the culprits of the attack targeting Hakan.