Two of Turkey’s powerful rival media groups, the Doğan Media Group (DMG) and the Akşam Group, continued to exchange accusations yesterday over documents seized during the investigation into the Ergenekon organization, a shadowy criminal network with links to the bureaucracy, military, security forces and other agencies whose members stand accused of orchestrating various murders and attacks so as to create chaos and trigger a coup d’état against the government.
Both groups have commercial ventures outside the media industry, including stakes in finance, energy, construction and other sectors. The parent companies use their media arms as proxies to discredit each others’ standing in the public. Both groups have joint ventures with a number of foreign partners to strengthen their economic position in the market.
The controversy started when Turkish daily Yeni Şafak published phone conversation transcripts -- which have been included as evidence in the Ergenekon indictment -- showing that Aydın Doğan, owner of the DMG, had conspired with the then-deputy prime minister and senior bureaucrats to take control of Pamukbank, a bank belonging to Çukurova Holding, the parent company of the Akşam Group and owned by Mehmet Emin Karamehmet.
Akşam said yesterday it will start publishing a series of articles detailing the back door politics behind the controversial confiscation of Pamukbank. The paper claimed that the alleged conspirators tried to force then Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit to sign the authorization of the bank takeover based on the testimony of Recai Birgün, the personal bodyguard of Ecevit. The paper named former head of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) Engin Akçakoca, former Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz, then Economy Minister Kemal Derviş, Doğan and a Citibank employee as conspirators.
Pamukbank was confiscated from the Çukurova Group in 2002 by the BDDK allegedly to recoup nearly $6 billion owed by the bank to the Treasury, although the confiscation remains controversial to this day. Documents that might be evidence of an orchestration of the Pamukbank takeover were seized during police raids conducted as part of the Ergenekon investigation.
The transcripts show various conversations that allegedly took place between Akçakoca, Yılmaz and an American employed at Citibank, who said his “people are not happy about Çukurova.” There are no transcripts of a conversation between Doğan and Derviş, but both are mentioned as being aware of the details of the takeover plan.
Milliyet, one of DMG’s dailies, ran a full-page story yesterday claiming that Akşam owner Karamehmet stands accused in six separate corruption cases still pending in the courts. The paper said Karamehmet has been charged with two separate counts of embezzlement and four counts of breach of trust.
Hürriyet, the flagship daily of DMG, wrote Sunday that the evidence behind accusations of its owner is fabricated and that the imagined conversations had been downloaded from a conspiracy theory Web site launched by Ergenekon in an attempt to start a smear campaign against the military and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). “In other words, there is no record of the transcripts,” Hürriyet wrote.
On Sunday Akşam wrote that the DMG had claimed the transcripts were false only because the company fears that “now it’s their turn,” referring to the Ergenekon case. Akşam claimed that Doğan is the media partner of the Ergenekon organization.