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Turkey’s biggest media owner dies at 79

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Erdoğan Demirören, a media mogul who recently bought Turkey’s largest media group, Doğan Media, passed away on Friday at the age of 79.

He had been under a doctor’s care since May 31 for treatment of cancer, the T24 news website reported.

Demirören was among the 100 wealthiest Turks with his $850 million fortune, according to Forbes 2018 list.

His first deal in the media world was the purchase of the Milliyet and Vatan dailies from Doğan Media in 2011.

Following the takeover, veteran journalists including Hasan Cemal and Can Dündar were fired from Milliyet, which since then has been considered part of the pro-government media.

According to the wiretap of a phone call leaked in 2014, Demirören had called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after an article was published in Milliyet about a statement made by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan to Kurdish deputies, who were brought by state officials to İmralı prison, where Öcalan is incarcerated, as part of peace negotiations between Erdoğan and Öcalan.

“Did I upset you, boss?” Demirören said on the phone to Erdoğan.

T24’s editor-in-chief, Doğan Akın, later wrote that Demirören had cried after that phone call because of the pressure and that he related this to Milliyet’s editor-in-chief, Derya Sazak, who was fired soon after.

After Milliyet published Öcalan’s statement in 2013, Erdoğan publicly denounced the newspaper and columnist Hasan Cemal, who defended the publication of Öcalan’s comments.

In 2012, Erdoğan Demirören’s son Yıldırım, who was previously chairman of famous football club Beşiktaş, became head of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).

The elder Demirören once had played football at Beşiktaş in the late 1950s, but after his father passed away, he had take over the family business.

Despite the uproar over the purchase of the Milliyet and Vatan newspapers, in April the Doğan Media Group, including the Hürriyet, Posta, Hürriyet Daily News and Fanatik dailies, the CNN Türk and Kanal D television stations, the Doğan news agency (DHA) and media distribution company YAY-SAT, was sold to the Demirören Media Group.

Following the sale, critics said 90 percent of the Turkish media now belonged to President Erdoğan.

Recently Hürriyet’s editor-in-chief Fikret Bila quitted his job and several columnists parted ways.

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