Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Factors Influencing Military-Media Relations in Turkey

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Factors Influencing Military-Media Relations in Turkey

Article excerpt

While headway has been made since 2001 regarding legislation that provides greater civilian control of the military in Turkey, of primary concern in recent years has been the military's use of "informal mechanisms of power," a designation often referring to this institution's potent relations with the national news media. This concern has been offset by the military's even more recent silence. This article argues that to understand the potency of military-media relations and how, when, and why the military appears in the news, one must also consider the underlying domestic institutional and structural forces that strongly influence this relationship. Institutionalized military education, consumer capitalism, and the military's institutional command hierarchy, ordered according to weight, establish the opportunities and constraints that frame the current realities in military- media relations.

That the Turkish military has historically played an active role in the affairs of the state is well-known and has long been a topic of discussion and contention with regard to civil-military relations and the process of democratization in the country. Especially after the junior military officers' coup on May 27, 1960 and the subsequent changes drafted into the new constitution in 1961, the vehicle for the Turkish Armed Forces' (TAF) involvement in political affairs was formalized with the creation of the advisory National Security Council, whose powers in its role as protector of the nation from external and internal threats were strengthened after the 1971 and 1980 military interventions. 1 However, following the European Union's (EU) 1999 Helsinki summit decision to accept Turkey as a candidate for membership, there have been fairly significant legislative steps taken toward curbing what was considered excessive military powers and establishing greater civilian control over the Armed Forces.2

Despite the developments in formal mechanisms that have quietly continued throughout 2010, recent critical scholarship and observations of civil-military relations have begun to demonstrate concerns of a more "informal" nature. For example, in the progress reports released by the EU addressing the fulfillment of requirements for membership from 2006 to 2010, under the heading "civilian oversight of the security forces," the EU consistently writes that "the armed forces have expressed their opinion on . . . policy issues going beyond their remit," despite variable progress in other areas.3 Of particular concern in these passages seems to be the military's influence derived from "informal mechanisms," emphasizing their tendency to "express their opinions" on issues beyond the realm of military affairs.4 In this regard, some have claimed that the military strives to "construct its own support base by acting like a political party directly addressing the public."5 Of course, what makes all of these observations significant is not that the military is speaking or expressing opinions, but rather that this is occurring in contexts, both formal and informal, in which those views are being published, broadcast, and transmitted for mass public consumption through existing media channels. It is the military's relationship with the media, the instrument of its "unofficial influence," that provides the critical potency to what is being expressed, and it is ultimately this interaction that has been generating such attention.

Since the retirement of former Chief of StaffIlker Basbug in 2010, however, more attention has been paid to the apparent silence of the military, particularly in light of the ongoing indictments of both retired and active military personnel by public prosecutors under the loose umbrella of the Ergenekon case, which claims that members of the armed forces and various media and civil society organizations had joined forces to remove the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power due to their supposed intent to create a state directed by Islamic law. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.