Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul paid 57 million lira ($9.5 million) to media outlets that supported the Justice and Development Party government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a dissident columnist has claimed.
Murat Agirel from the Yenicag daily on Wednesday indicated in a column that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) transferred the money between 2017-2019 as advertising fees to the media outlets close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP government.
The columnist indicated that the IBB funds he mentioned were paid for advertising deals between the municipality and the media companies, adding that there are further payments in the form of sponsorships that he did not include in his calculations.
Agirel said he learned about the figures after asking the IBB about the amount of advertising fee that was paid to Turkey’s press organs before the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Ekrem Imamoglu took office as Istanbul mayor in June 2019.
According to Wednesday’s article, the media outlets of Turkuaz Holding, owned by the family of Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law, received municipal funds worth 15 million lira ($2.5 million) within two years.
“Yenisafak and TVNET received 9 million lira ($1.5 million), Yeni Akit and Akit TV received 3 million lira ($504,000), Kanal 7 and Ulke TV received 1.4 million lira ($235,000), and Istanbul TV and Istanbul Agency received 1.5 million lira ($252,000) funding from the IBB and affiliated organizations,” Agirel elaborated.
What stirred up the discussions on wasteful spending during IBB’s 14-year rule under the ruling AKP was a decision by pro-government Gunes and Star dailies last week to shut down citing financial problems.
The decision came after Imamoglu’s recent move to cut the monthly transfer of 10 million lira ($1.8 million) in advertising fees to the pro-government TurkMedya group that includes the two newspapers.
The columnist hinted on Wednesday that Gunes and Star might not be the only media outlets to be affected by opposition mayor’s decision to end municipal advertising deals.
“The pro-government press outlets that are now worried about funding and thus closure are actually those that had been sucking the IBB dry [before June 2019],” Agirel also held forth.
He further underlined that the pro-government dailies started to shut down as Imamoglu continues to do away with the municipality’s extravagant spending as he promised after taking office.
“The time to serve the man [Erdogan] and foundations, people and religious communities [close to Erdogan] is over,” the opposition mayor vowed after winning the mayor’s seat in Turkey’s business hub Istanbul.
Back in August, Imamoglu also canceled the transfer of 357 million lira ($60 million) to charitable foundations close to President Erdogan and his family, highlighting “this is only the beginning.”