FASS Seminar:Murat Somer (Koç University)


Sabancı University

Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences  






Murat Somer

Koç Üniversitesi

Pazartesi, Haziran 7,

 14:00 -16:00  

FASS  2034


At its current juncture of democratization, a salient feature of Turkey’s political transformation has been fierce political-discursive battles on the role of the media in politics, whereby the media have been vilified by both the supporters and the skeptics of the government. To what extent are these accusations embedded in reality, rather than being part of how rival political groupings “frame’ the facts as an instrument to prevail in their power struggle? To what extent do, and can, the media play a deliberative role in democratization? In order to address these questions, this paper draws on a systematic and comparative content analysis of three religious-conservative and two secular newspapers in Turkey, covering their issues between 1996 and 2004. Insofar as the media are a major factor of the political transformation through the specific mechanism of ideational change, it should be possible to show empirically that the value changes in the media are causally linked with real political behavior. Insofar as the media can play a positive deliberative role in democratic political change, it should be possible to argue theoretically that values can be linked causally to democratization, and, it should be possible to show empirically that the discussions in the media lead to some convergence, rather than divergence, on democratic values. In response to these hypotheses, the article will use the findings of the content analysis to illustrate three examples of value change and their consequences. The first is value changes that can be linked with the transformation of Turkish political Islamism into a “conservative-democratic” force supported by part of the liberal-secular intelligentsia. The second is the Kurdish question, where lack of value change is a major factor undermining democratic reforms. The third is the value division on secularism and the public role of religion, which seems to undermine the emergence of broad-based elite coalitions for democratic change. A major conclusion of the article is that value changes in the media on different subjects and among different elites are endogenous to each other and to the institutions outside the media. Thus, the media can play a positive deliberative role in democratization (the more so if its own institutional weaknesses can be addressed), but only in combination with institutions of checks and balances that provide trust between religious and secular elites. Absent such institutions, democratic value changes on one issue among one group of elites are undermined by democracy-skeptical value changes on another issue among a different group of elites.