No.39 Media Bias, Kurdish Repression, and the Dismantling of Local Democracy in Turkey
Melissa Marschall and Saadet Konak Unal
In this article, we explore how heightened repression and the consolidation of power by the executive branch in Turkey have allowed Erdoğan to take steps that further undermine the country’s democratic evolution. We argue that Erdoğan’s increasing pressure on the media, along with the state of emergency following the 2016 coup attempt, facilitated the repression of Kurdish municipalities. Focusing on the targeting of HDP mayors by the central government, we describe the political process leading to the purge of elected mayors and the normalization of the trustee system (kayyım) at the local level. We then conduct a content analysis of news articles to empirically examine potential bias in Turkish news outlets’ reporting. Our findings demonstrate differences in the content and framing of articles published by national and international news outlets concerning HDP co-mayors’ events and the takeover of their municipalities. We find that Turkish news outlets overwhelmingly promote the AKP party line, rarely provide balanced reporting, and propagate a ‘Kurds as terrorists’ frame.