The Turkish government has censored Bloomberg’s information about the delay in gas payments to Russia due to the deterioration of the economy

Levent Kenez/Stockholm

The Turkish government has removed an article from the Turkish edition of a US economic news giant that reported on the Turkish government’s request to defer natural gas payments to Russia, Nordic Monitor has found.

The international news agency Bloomberg on Monday reported that Turkish officials have asked Russia to delay part of the payments due to Ankara for natural gas, according to people familiar with the matter, as Turkey seeks to mitigate the economic damage caused by rising energy prices .

According to Bloomberg, Turkey’s state-owned energy importer BOTAŞ is looking to defer some of the payments until 2024, according to one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the payment discussions are private. The talks follow an agreement between the two countries that allows BOTAŞ to pay 25% of its obligations in rubles rather than dollars.

The article also says Turkey’s heavy reliance on imported energy has added pressure on its currency and budget. The Turkish lira depreciated more than 28% against the dollar in 2022, the strongest in emerging markets after the Argentinian peso, and its trade deficit more than doubled in August from the same month a year earlier. to reach $11.2 billion.

As expected, the story found wide coverage in almost all media except those supporting the government, and quickly spread across social media. Economists agreed that such demand was a natural consequence of Turkey’s slowing economy. Of course, Bloomberg Group’s partner in Turkey, Bloomberg HT, also posted the news on its website.

Hours after the news broke, a BOTAŞ source spoke to pro-Kremlin Russian outlet Sputnik, denying Bloomberg’s claim and explaining that BOTAŞ had asked for a price review, not a delay.

Pro-government media, which did not mention Bloomberg’s story, covered Sputnik extensively. However, the source’s unclear statements in the story and the detail that the final decision will be made in a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have increased the accuracy of the claims of Bloomberg. For many, it would not be surprising if Turkey, which has long experienced currency problems, made such a request given that Hungary announced this week that Russian oil and gas supplier Gazprom would allow it to delay payments. of natural gas due in the next six months.

However, the Bloomberg story that Turkey requested a postponement has been removed from Bloomberg HT’s website. Nordic Monitor learned that the story was taken down at the request of government officials. People who click on the news link now see a notification that the page no longer exists.

Many news sites, fearing government backlash, deleted Bloomberg news and only published the Sputnik story.

Bloomberg HT is operated by the pro-government media group Ciner, which includes the daily HaberTürk and several TV stations. The group is owned by Turgay Ciner, who worked closely with former minister Zafer Çağlayan, who helped Iran evade sanctions and was indicted in the United States. Ciner, who came under investigation in Turkey in 2013, got away with it thanks to the relationship he forged with Erdoğan.

Nordic Monitor previously reported that Turkish President Erdoğan, facing serious challenges in upcoming elections in a struggling economy, has turned to Russia for help to boost his cash reserves, rehabilitate its degraded image and to offer relief to consumers with significant reductions in the price of energy.

Speaking to reporters returning from a tour of the Balkans in September, Erdoğan revealed ongoing negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a reduction in the price of natural gas. “Russia has not imposed any sanctions on us. I had a discussion with him about the price [of gas deliveries]”, he told reporters. “If he approaches this in a positive way, then it would be the ‘crème de la crème’ because our goal is to provide as much electricity and natural gas as possible to our citizens. on more favorable terms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (right)

Erdoğan’s government also plans to increase its control over news sites and social media with new legislation before parliament this week. It is no secret that the Erdoğan government, which controls almost all Turkish media, is unhappy with critical content, especially that posted abroad, on social media. The new legislation is part of efforts to establish a legal mechanism that censors critical posts and videos ahead of the 2023 election.

Edward N. Arrington