The deepening social polarization and increasing state pressure in Turkey undermines the participation of journalists as the custodians of public interest in the public sphere based on the principle of common good. Using the data of my ethnographic fieldwork in newsrooms, I explore the features of legitimate journalistic activity without normative connection to the public. The Islamic-based ruling party (AKP) attempts to transform the public into its own intimate, family-like sphere. Journalists are compelled to either totally merge with the AKP-friendly family that dominates the public, or retreat to the privacy of the newsroom as an act of resistance and withdraw from contact with the ‘other’ journalistic community. Examining this “otherization” and isolation is crucial to understanding the ways in which the pursuit of professional ethics is replaced by self-centered norm-defining practices articulated in the rhetoric of intimacy rather than of the debate-oriented public sphere of journalists.
On 28 February1997, the army issued a memorandum that emphasized the urgent need to protect the laic principles of the Turkish Republic, or they would take over the rule of the country. When the officials of the Islamist Welfare Party, which was the main partner of the coalition government at the time, received this message, they immediately resigned from the government. Other parties in parliament formed a new coalition and implemented a series of policies that were named the 28 February measures; these were designed to prevent political Islam from regaining power.