Pro-govt media left Turkey speechless with its portrayal of Zarrab

Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab has become a figure constantly under the media spotlight since he was detained over charges of bribery and gold smuggling during the famed Dec. 17 police raids, which severely shook the Turkish government. Three ministers’ sons, whose fathers resigned following the scandal, a district mayor, a former manager of a state-run bank and some businesspeople were among those who were detained by the police on the same day along with Zarrab as part of a major corruption and bribery investigation. Zarrab, who was mostly known for being the husband of a Turkish singer until Dec. 17, has emerged as the key suspect in the bribery allegations. After remaining under arrest for over two months, Zarrab was released pending trial, along with the arrested ministers’ sons, sparking public outrage. Meanwhile, Turkish daily Karsı, which was recently shut down by its owner, reported on phone leaks implicating Zarrab and former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, whose son Barıs Guler was among the Dec. 17 detainees. Speaking to Zarrab, Guler reportedly said “I would lie down in front of you [to protect you] in case of a probe against you.” In addition, other phone conversations leaked to the Internet supposedly featuring the voices of former minister Guler and the Iranian mogul exposed additional scandals, such as Orhan İnce, a police chief, being removed from his post on Zarrab’s demand and the fact that an official car was designated to Zarrab by the Interior Ministry.

Over the last couple of days, pro-government media outlets such as the daily Sabah and the A Haber station ran interviews with Zarrab who suggested that the probe against him is part of a “coup d’etat” against the government. Bugun daily columist Nuh Gonultas wrote a piece on Monday titled “Who cares about the publication ban from the court? Right, Reza?” Gonultas pointed out the fact that there is a court-ordered ban on media outlets publishing or broadcasting reports about the Dec. 17 graft scandal. Gonultas wrote, “Yes, this [Zarrab interview] violated the ban, but it is okay! Since nobody cares about orders from the judges of this country anymore. Furthermore, a government which garnered a majority of the vote [in the recent local elections] is behind Reza Zarrab. So who cares about the broadcast ban? Or about confessions made by Zarrab [during the interview] regarding his unregistered trade activities? The man brought money to the country and claims he has helped reduce Turkey’s current deficit. Well, how much money do the courts bring to Turkey?” Gonultas also stated that he was speechless about how the pro-government media revered Zarrab by presenting him as such a beneficial person to the country who had reduced Turkey’s current deficit by 15 percent. “Maybe we should apologize to Zarrab. Or should we nominate him for president?” asked Gonultas.

Mehmet Y. Yılmaz, a columnist with the daily Hurriyet, wrote about the recent Zarrab interview, commenting: “We have learned from what Zarrab said in the interview that we owe it to him that we are living in a time of economical stability. The Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TUSİAD), the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) and other capital holders have no influence at all! Nor have the financial authorities!” Yılmaz stated that hearing Zarrab’s remarks about him having exported 200 tons of gold, bringing TL 25 billion to Turkey and closing 15 percent of the current deficit made him realize why Zarrab gave money to ministers so generously, as he has a poor understanding of calculations.