Monday, November 10, 2008

Crisis management in Turkey and Lighthouse ev case

Crisis Management in Turkey and the Real Victims of Lighthouse

While crisis management these days must be handled well by the ruling government, crisis communication must be performed fine by the media as well. It seems that both crisis communication and crisis management are brand new words in the Turkish society when I read what’s going on regarding the Lighthouse scheme.
Although crisis communication and crisis management both include the word crisis, don’t use it interchangeably! Crisis Management deals with the reality of the crisis. Crisis Communications deals with the perception of the reality.

Now the current blown out of proportion ugly public fight between PM Erdogan and Mr. A. Dogan media group lingers on over the scheme the Lighthouse association caused in Germany, I am also astonished over the fact that nobody talks and cares about the victims of this ploy. I am talking here about innocent people who gave money with good intentions, not about the people who betrayed them.

The public fight.

While Mr. A. Dogan might be right in his conclusion that the current government tries to intimidate the media with bully talk, I question whether some of his media outlets are sincere in their intentions to report what really is going on in Germany. I have my doubts; reality and perception are mixed up again. The only thing I know by now, after six years in Turkey, this fight is no longer an ordinary fight since everything is allowed. In my opinion; Better empathize with the community at large. Turkey is still not a country of milk and honey! But let me explain my point of view.

Obsessed with Germany

For more than 40 years, the fact is that Turkey has been strongly connected in some way or another due to its large Turkish community in Germany. Perception is that both countries are assessing each other subjectively and unfairly. But at the same time, I always sense some kind of misplaced inferiority complex among Turkish people when Germany is in the game. So what happened in Germany when Turks were convicted for fraud? The power struggle extended to Turkey and some groups now want to benefit from it. That’s reality.
When a measure of inadequacy (indictment) was made against those Turkish citizens, some parts of the Turkish press jumped like a jackal upon the instance. And even before a verdict was reached, serious allegations were made against the AK Party in general and the PM in particular.
This is all part of the game, and since these allegations were based upon facts, you should always take this serious. Crisis management stands for openness and transparency, not for non-responsive or inappropriate behavior which always leads to spin. The ruling government currently demonstrates this behavior.

It's the non-action and the resulting spin, and not the actions of the media that cause embarrassment, humiliation, prolonged visibility, and unnecessary litigation.
On the other side, some Turkish tabloids could have taught their government a lesson in communication, de facto it’s their job. Unfortunately, I witnessed a lack of understanding in the Turkish media of how to navigate through the whole process. Intense media speculation forced the government to make public statements before it could properly react; and, some in the Turkish media released self-serving messages and made assumptions about the truth without really knowing the actual truth.

Turkey must know by now that an unstable or crucial time of state of affairs will make a decisive difference for better or worse. Ideally, if the PM had tackled his toughest challenge earlier: prepared for leadership for the glare of the local, national and international spotlight he probably nothing had to worry about.


The Lighthouse association charity case may still cause headaches for some politicians in Turkey, I am still baffled why not a single Turkish journalist came up with a story of one of the victims. The same journalists who were silent when Erbakan National View group, Milli Görüs, literally ripped off millions of savings of thousands of Turkish families through ‘green funds’ in the Netherlands earlier this year. Milli Görüs stands for anti-Westernism, anti-semitism and notorious racism: An Turkish ‘export product’ the previous and current Turkish governments turn a blind eye to. But what about the the victims? No word. Compensation? No word.

What to do.

It's sad to see a Prime Minister - overshadowing the current rapprochements between Armenians and Turks and Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and the global financial crisis - his lack of sensitivity, playing the victim card, and showing a lack of communication skills. No statesman words like: ‘We will relentlessly examine every aspect of this scheme to find out what happened, to fix it, talk about it, and see that it won't happen again." And, no use of trained and professional spokespersons. The one-man show must go on. And still, nothing about the victims of these scandals.

Finally, I know why the Turkish General Staff has emerged with the responsible person for communication within the TSK from General Staff colonel to brigadier general; they know how to deal with pressure and still conduct with good ethics. Something I cannot say about Turkish politics and their allies in the media. Ataturk’s words ‘peace at home, peace in the world’ became really empty these days.
(Hans A.H.C. de Wit is a Dutch International Communication Manager based in Istanbul and can be reached at

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