Turkey closing ‘Mekameleen’ signals end of era for Muslim Brotherhood
The announcement of the shutdown of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Mekameleen” channel and the suspension of the TV outlet’s broadcasts from Turkey have indicated that the era in the Islamist group’s media activity has come to an end, while Ankara seeks to reap the dividends from a new phase in its relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
“Mekameleen” was among the satellite TV channels used in the past by (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s Turkey to put pressure on its Arab neighbours and also carry out the agendas of both Ankara and the Brotherhood in the region.
The TV channel put out a statement on Friday announcing the definitive end of its broadcast and the closure of its studios, eight years after it started operating from Istanbul. It said that it “will resume broadcasting and start again its activity from other countries, soon,” but did not specify from which countries or at what date.
Turkey had expelled a number of media professionals from its territory, as a prelude to closing the channels after the goals for which they were created were no longer part of Ankara’s priorities.
Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV channels operating from Turkey were part of Ankara’s propaganda arsenal against Egypt and Arab Gulf countries. In the past few years, hey spearheaded a multifaceted showdown between the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood and Cairo. From 2018, Ankara also employed them to assail and pressure Saudi Arabia by trying to spin to its advantage the case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
As part of its regional policy shift, Ankara is now seeking reconciliation with Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. For that purpose, it needs to further demonstrate its intent to introduce tangible changes in its regional agenda. That includes distancing itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The move to close “Mekameleen” coincided with Erdoğan’s first visit to Saudi Arabia since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi four years ago.
During his visit, Erdoğan spoke of launching “a new era” in Turkish-Saudi relations and his desire to strengthen political, military, economic and cultural ties.
Former Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Hassan Haridy told The Arab Weekly that “the demise of the Brotherhood channels comes in the context of the gradual return of Egyptian-Turkish relations to normal, a step preceding the exchange of ambassadors between the two countries”. He noted that Cairo had objected to appointing an ambassador to Ankara as long as hostile channels continued to air from Turkish soil.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently declared that his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, will visit Turkey soon, but he did not specify the exact date of that trip.
He pointed out that relations with Cairo are improving and are expected to move to higher ground, despite the differences in views between both countries. He asserted that improvement in relations will benefit both countries.
Analysts say that Ankara has tried to send a useful signal to Egypt and Arab Gulf countries through the closure of the TV channel but retains in its service a gamut of soft power and propaganda tools that can carry out its bidding, including criticism of Egypt if it needed.
Qatar-owned “Al-Jazeera” TV channel continues to promote the political agendas of Qatar and Turkey and to show that neither country has abandoned the Brotherhood and both also intend to maintain their influence among Islamists in certain Arab countries where they have sought to position themselves since the “Arab spring” upheaval.
Islamist groups’ expert Munir Adib said Ankara is expected to continue its action against the Brotherhood TV channels pending the outcome of the political rapprochement between Turkey and the Arab countries.
High among Turkey’s concerns are its economic crisis and the need to secure more investments from Arab Gulf countries, analysts say. This focus, they add, does do not serve the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood nor of its relations with Ankara.
Erdoğan now seeks to further boost ties not only with Saudi Arabia and the UAE but also with Egypt even if it means further undermining the Muslim Brotherhood’s regional propaganda operations.
Last March, Ankara had asked Brotherhood activist Yasser Al-Omda to leave the country after the broadcast of statements in which he criticised Cairo’s policies and called for a “popular revolution” in Egypt. Many TV presenters have left Turkey while others topped attacking Cairo. They understood Ankara no longer offered them a political safe haven.
(A version of this article was originally published by the Arab Weekly and is reproduced by permission.)