December 12, 2014

Opposition slams mass detention claims in name of democracy, freedoms

Opposition party leaders and deputies have raised their voices in protest of claims suggesting 150 journalists affiliated with the Hizmet movement will be detained as part of a wide-scale operation, saying any interference in the media will harm democracy and media freedoms.

In remarks at a meeting about human rights in Ankara on Friday, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that the government's interference in the media is an indication of a lack of democracy in Turkey, addressing recent claims from a whistleblower that 150 journalists affiliated with the Hizmet movement will be detained as part of a wide-scale operation.

The CHP leader pinpointed the kinds of human rights violations happening in Turkey and said the government is destroying human rights and democracy when it needs to be enhancing them. "If a government interferes in the media, there is no democracy there,” he said.

He stressed that democracy is not about the ballot box and added that democracy will be stronger in Turkey if politics don't interfere with civilian life. He also underlined that human rights violations have reached high levels in Turkey.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Trabzon deputy Koray Aydın also criticized the alleged operation targeting journalists and said Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç's remarks about the operation prove that it will happen.

When asked about the controversial claim, which was announced by a Twitter user and whistleblower with the pseudonym Fuat Avni, Arınç said on Thursday during budget talks at Parliament: "This is serious and we need to consider it. I found the tweet to be a bit dangerous, as well. I hope that this does not turn out to be real or at least that it [does not occur on] this scale."

“A thief can do anything," Aydın told the private Samanyolu TV network. "If someone asks me whether there will be an operation against those who revealed thievery, I would say yes. The current situation shows that there will be.” His remarks on thieves and thievery were in reference to a corruption scandal that erupted last year on Dec. 17 implicating some ministers and their sons.

National Party (UP) leader Gökçe Fırat also chimed in, saying it won't be the journalists who are harmed in the operation but people's right to access information. He also called on people not to leave the media and journalists to face the government alone.

“Today your freedom of information will be detained my dear people, not journalists. Defend your own freedom,” Fırat said via Twitter.

Hundreds of supporters gathered on Thursday evening at the headquarters of the Feza Media Group, which includes the Zaman daily, to protest a possible operation against Hizmet-affiliated journalists, objecting to what they claim to be the government's increasingly authoritarian practices to silence outspoken media.

Chanting slogans, the people protested the government's possible raid, with many vowing to stand vigil despite the threat of the operation. Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, with other editors lined up before him, addressed the crowd in a short speech, promising them that no matter what happens, the newspaper will not be silenced.

Fırat also harshly criticized Turkish journalists who have not expressed solidarity with their colleagues.

“Turkey, the whole world is talking about the operation against the media, but there is no word from the [Turkish] media or journalists. You dishonor your profession and also humanity,” he said.

Twitter user Avni, who has revealed many government-backed police operations to the public, claimed that dozens of journalists will be detained in simultaneous police raids to have been conducted in İstanbul, Ankara and Malatya on Friday. The whistleblower said that famous journalists from the Bugün, Taraf, Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies would be among those detained.

In successive tweets posted on Thursday, Avni said that a total of 400 people will be detained as part the operation, including 147 journalists working at the newspapers close to the faith-based Hizmet movement -- inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Avni said the operation is an act of revenge for last year's major corruption and bribery scandal that implicated many state officials and pro-government businessmen.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 December 2014, Friday