July 7, 2014

Court orders prove gov't media's anti-Hizmet smear campaign

Numerous court decisions issued over the past few months have shown that government-controlled media in Turkey have consistently manufactured lies about the Hizmet movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen following allegations made by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that the movement is behind a corruption investigation that is part of an effort to overthrow the government.

Since Dec. 17, 2013, when prosecutors detained several businessmen close to the government as well as the sons of three then-Cabinet ministers, the government has accused the Hizmet movement of plotting to overturn it, although it has produced no credible evidence to back these claims.

The so-called “pool media” – a term used following allegations that businessmen pooled money for the government to buy some of the pro-government newspapers in return for favors -- which includes the Akşam, Sabah, Yeni Şafak, Takvim and Yeni Akit newspapers, as well as A Haber, a TV news station, have run numerous libelous stories about the Hizmet movement since December of last year. A total of 38 correction rulings have been issued by the courts; however, none of the corrections were published quite as dictated by the law.

Audio recordings that were made public before the March 30 elections suggested that the editorial boards of these newspapers openly collaborate with the government, and in some cases, directly with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On numerous occasions, these newspapers have used identical headlines for their main stories.

In addition to turning against the Hizmet group, Erdoğan also began to reassign police officers and members of the judiciary on the grounds that they might be affiliated with Hizmet, moving them to less influential positions. Four AK Party ministers have resigned over the allegations of government corruption, and a parliamentary investigation committee has been established to look into the claims.

The government media outlets, a major propaganda machine for the AK Party, have manufactured hundreds of false stories about the Hizmet movement and Gülen. It was self-evident that most of these stories were untrue, given the number of contradictions and inconsistencies they contained. Many people, including Gülen himself, who have been falsely accused of unseemly behavior or even crimes by these newspapers, have sued. Lawyers representing the victims of the government press have said that in addition to libel, defamation of character, insults and slander, some of the news stories contain elements that fall under the definition of the crime of inciting hatred and hostility.

Many court orders have been issued obliging the untruthful press to publish corrections. The majority of correction rulings were issued to Sabah and Takvim. However, these newspapers and others have used small print to publish the corrections, in violation of the current press laws. They chose to publish the corrections in tiny columns, whereas they had dedicated large spaces, and even full pages, to the libelous stories that necessitated the corrections.

Some of the headlines of stories for which the courts have ordered corrections be published include:

“The golden shot of the ‘parallel structure'”
“Parallel families of the police department”
“Process launched for extradition of Gülen”
“‘Hizmet pressured us to vote for the CHP'”
“The iron fist of the [Hizmet] movement”
“Base Gülen used for splicing recordings discovered”
“[Hizmet members] stole examination questions, infiltrated the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]”
“Gülen's passport cancelled”
“Gülen offers alliance to PKK in letter”
“Gülen coup investigation”
“CIA approved Gülen's [US] residence permit”

Published on Today's Zaman, 07 July 2014, Monday