Opposition parties have sharply criticized the government for a police operation in which journalists and television producers were detained early on Sunday, describing the operation as a “civilian coup.”
“Turkey has witnessed a civilian coup. This is a coup against democracy,” Kemal Kılıçaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told reporters.
Given that the operation was held shortly before the anniversary of two sweeping graft probes that came to public attention on Dec. 17 and 25 of last year, there is speculation that the operation is part of a government effort to stop the anniversary from being used as a springboard for popular protests.
Noting that following the two corruption probes -- after which four Cabinet ministers left their posts, Turkey saw its government use state powers for its own benefit, Kılıçdaroğlu said the government had conducted the operation because it did not want the claims of corruption to come to the agenda. "Detaining journalists and storming newspapers and TV networks in the early morning is not a something [the CHP] would accept,” the CHP leader added.
Oktay Vural, parliamentary group deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has described the operation against the media as a coup against the rule of law. In a speech in Parliament on Sunday as part of budget discussions for the year 2015, Vural said the operation was intended to change the agenda of the country by putting pressure over some media outlets ahead of the anniversary of the corruption probes.
Drawing attention to the timing of the operation, Vural said, “The pressure and threats against the media reflects the mindset of those who fear that the public would find out the facts [about corruption].”
Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Mustafa Destici also criticized the operation, saying that it is being conducted in order to place the media under psychological pressure. “This kind of operation against the media and journalists … could not be conducted in a democratic country where the rule of law prevails,” Destici said in a written statement.
CHP spokesperson Haluk Koç also lashed out at the government. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Koç accused the government of trying to cover up claims of widespread corruption. “We will never accept the application of pressure against any media outlet. The rule of law cannot be said to exist in a regime in which those in power manipulate the law to get rid of accusations leveled against them,” Koç said, underlining that the CHP would stand by the victims of legal violations by the government.
İdris Bal, leader of the Democratic Progress Party (DGP) and an independent deputy, has said the public has been psychologically prepared by pro-government media outlets for an operation against those media outlets which are critical of the government. Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu, a deputy from pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), also criticized the operation, saying: “This is not the right way [to govern Turkey]… [Such an operation] is not in line with democracy, human rights and justice.”
Independent deputy and former Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay told Today's Zaman that the government has chosen to go after those who run stories about the claims of corruption instead of providing an explanation to the public on whether the claims are true or not.
Lütfü Türkkan, an MHP deputy, criticized those who remain silent in the face of the such moves against the freedom of the press, saying that “remaining silent about these detentions amounts to tolerating fascism.”
“It is not possible to talk about democracy in a country where journalists are detained after being accused as terrorists,” Türkkan said on his Twitter account on Sunday.
Haluk Özdalga, a former ruling party deputy who is also currently an independent lawmaker, told Today's Zaman that the legitimacy of the government has been shattered by the detention of the heads of some of Turkey's prominent media organizations. Noting that the freedom of the press has been breached by the government, he warned that the operation will result in heavy damage to Turkey's prestige abroad.
Independent deputy Erdal Kalkan likened the current events to those of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. He added that the government is reversing all the progress Turkey has made on democratization and modernization over the last 200 years.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 14 December 2014, Sunday