December 16, 2014

Columnists slam government-backed operation on Zaman, STV

Turkish columnists from a wide range of political leanings have harshly criticized Sunday's police raid targeting journalists and media outlets, with many of them bringing attention to the fact that the operation took place during the week of the anniversary of the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 corruption raids in 2013.

Perilous, dangerous, unlawful, wrong
Ahmet Hakan, Hürriyet

Perilous: Conducting raids on the offices of newspapers and TV stations, and detaining journalists and TV broadcasters, deals a death blow to democracy and free speech. The detention of [Zaman daily's editor-in-chief] Ekrem Dumanlı and his colleagues is perilous in this regard.

Dangerous: Freedom of expression cannot be sacrificed to the “government-Hizmet movement conflict.” Dealing a blow to newspapers and journalists based on this conflict is indeed a blow to the freedom of the whole society. The detention of Dumanlı and his colleagues is dangerous in this regard.

Unlawful: Newspapers cannot be raided and journalists cannot be charged based on outrageously abstract accusations such as the “attempt to take over government sovereignty,” which does not include any articulated act. The detention of Dumanlı and his colleagues is unlawful in this regard.

Wrong: The judiciary cannot be used as a weapon against dissidents and cannot be made a tool used to suppress anti-government individuals. The detention of Dumanlı and his colleagues is wrong in this regard.

Taha Akyol, Hürriyet

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had said, “If true, it is perilous,” when commenting on what [government whistleblower] Fuat Avni wrote [on Twitter]. On Sunday morning, it turned out to be true, and of course this is perilous! According to Fuat Avni, there are others next [to be detained as part of the same operation] Who? It is unknown. This uncertainty is a sign of the current state of the legal system in Turkey because where the rule of law prevails, there is no uncertainty! If people are living with concerns because of an uncertain future, this means the legal system has taken a serious blow. We do not know the content of the case-file against our colleagues Ekrem Dumanlı, Hidayet Karaca and others, but the procedure that has been followed in the case raises the concern that it is politically motivated. Look at the overall picture: Dumanlı goes to İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu on Friday. Salihoğlu, an honest prosecutor, says in reference to Dumanlı and his colleagues, “There is no ongoing probe against you” and offers a written document proving this. This means the probe was conducted without notifying the chief prosecutor. However the government amended the regulation on judicial police right after the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 probes went public, obliging prosecutors to notify not only chief prosecutors but also governors and police chiefs. What kind of procedure was it and what kind of procedure is it now?

Erhan Başyurt, Bugün

Yesterday [Sunday] was a dark day in the name of Turkish democracy and freedom of the press. Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı from Zaman, Turkey's bestselling daily, and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group head Hidayet Karaca, who is in charge of five TV channels, were detained. There are 31 names on the detention list, including our columnist Nuh Gönültaş. What is funnier is that nine cinema people, including screenplay writer, director and producers of the “Tek Türkiye” TV series, were also detained. The reason for the detentions is surprising: A 2010 police operation on a Salafist group that is accused of being affiliated with al-Qaeda. The leader of the group, publicly known as “Tahşiyeciler,” had allegedly heard Osama bin Laden's call to take up arms in the name of jihad and was encouraging others to do the same. During the operation weapons were seized, including three hand grenades, seven revolvers, 18 shotguns and 1,380 canisters containing products used in the making of bombs along with other materials used for the same purpose. The police officers on the detention list are accused of plotting against this group, while journalists are accused of writing columns covering this issue and TV broadcasters are accused of producing a TV series that included a story line referencing this group. Such an operation against journalists, which has eradicated Turkey's international reputation, would only be carried out to cover up bigger problems. Apparently the government is trying to prevent public discussions about the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 corruption claims from resurfacing.

‘New Turkey' raid
Utku Çakırözer, Cumhuriyet

The AKP [Justice and Development Party] has finally launched the anticipated counter-operation on the anniversary of a massive corruption and bribery operation that forced four of its ministers to resign a year ago. The general public opinion is that this operation [against journalists and TV broadcasters] is not lawful but politically motivated and aimed at suppressing dissidents. The targeting of journalists and columnists, along with police chiefs, supports the notion that this is a politically motivated operation. If the AKP is sincere about its repeated emphasis on “democracy and the rule of law,” it is responsible for proving that this investigation is not political, but is rather a lawful one. However the AKP government does not have a brilliant record regarding the rule of law. Following the Dec. 17 graft operation, the government acted with a mindset like “severely punish those who cause us setbacks,” and first targeted the judiciary and police officers, who conducted the corruption investigations. Many prosecutors and policemen were reassigned, expelled or jailed. Yesterday [on Sunday] the media affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which extensively wrote about the corruption probe, was the target. The operation exposed the picture of the government's “new Turkey,” which it has continually bragged about.

Government commits hara-kiri
Mehmet Baransu, Taraf

Turkey woke up to a black Sunday. The latest government frenzy targeted a newspaper and TV stations. Journalists, TV broadcasters, producers and screenplay writers were detained.
As we enter the anniversary week of the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 corruption and bribery operations, the government is aiming to make the public forget about corruption claims by conducting a series of raids on a number of addresses --including the offices of the Zaman daily and Samanyolu TV -- and detaining journalists.

The insanity has come so far that all of the staff named in the credits of a TV series, including graphic designers, were detained on charges of being members of “an armed terrorist organization.” The ridiculous and false claims were broadcast live to the whole world. The detention of Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı revealed the weakness of the government. The legal amendment introducing “reasonable suspicion” as viable grounds for police detention had been ratified only one day before this silencing of the opposition media.

It was not a surprise
Mehmet Tezkan, Milliyet

I think this is the most fitting description of the current situation [in Turkey]: “You shouldn't ask about the identity of the victims.” When the police conduct raids on newspaper offices and detain journalists, this, alone, is what we should focus on. We should not judge this newspaper and its journalists for their past. It is not decent to say, “Now, you care about press freedom and democracy.” Here it is not about the Zaman daily or the broadcasts of Samanyolu TV; it is about the media.

What happened and why?
Fehmi Koru, Habertürk

I should say that in my personal opinion things should not have moved to this level. The AK Party [Justice and Development Party] does not want to share its power with any [group] that was not elected at the polls. It [the AK Party] views the questioning of its existence and governance as “tutelage” and considers fighting tutelage in the country its primary duty. Turkey's new president is a man of politics who believes that power is not sharable and who can risk getting into any battle for this. This is the reason behind [Turkey's] acceptance of the “parallel structure” discourse as a state policy. This is a shame. I can say [at least] this, as I am putting an end to my column.

The state and questions
Eser Karakaş, Star

If the detentions [of journalists on Sunday] have become possible with the new amendment and the introduction of reasonable suspicion [as grounds for police detentions], this means these detentions were not legally possible until Friday. After the ratification of the new judicial package on Friday, the detentions were conducted on Sunday based on the new legislation. This process might raise questions in terms of universal law. If the detention of journalists raises legal questions, the harm caused by it does not only affect political parties or religious groups but also the state itself directly.

News report by Fuat Avni
Aydın Engin, Cumhuriyet

The judicial army orchestrated by [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan openly attacked the “media” starting on Sunday morning. I do not use the term “media outlets affiliated with the Hizmet movement,” I say “media” because the media is what is being attacked. I believe this is the day to quote anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who said 75 years ago: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 15 December 2014, Monday