December 15, 2014


Erhan Başyurt

Turkish democracy and media freedom had a dark day yesterday. Ekrem Dumanlı, The Editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, the largest-circulating newspaper of Turkey which has been published for a quarter century, and Hidayet Karaca, the President of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, which comprises five TV stations, were detained.

The prosecutor issued a detention order for 31 people, including our columnist Nuh Gönültaş. All the more interesting, the list of detainees contains 9 cinema workers, among whom are also a producer, scriptwriter and director of TV serial “Tek Türkiye”(Undivided Turkey).

The ground for detentions is surprising: An operation launched in 2010 against an al-Qaeda-linked Salafi terror group. The leader of the group, known publicly as “Tahşiyeciler”, urged on obeying Osama bin Laden’s call for jihad and taking up arms. During the operation, police seized ammunition including 3 hand grenades, 7 pistols, 18 shotguns, 1,380 cartridges of different calibers, and a laser pointer used for bomb making.

The policemen in the list were detained for plotting and scheming, the journalists for writing pieces, and the creators of the TV serial for evocations in the show. The judge who issued the detention order is the same judge who had released Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, the prime suspect in the Dec. 17 corruption investigation. And the prosecutor conducting the investigation is the same prosecutor who gave a written notice to journalists applying to him a few days ago, stating that “There is no investigation about you.” Just decide it yourself.

For one thing, the order for investigation relating to “al-Qaeda-linked Tahşiyeciler” came from a prosecutor. The decision to launch the operation was approved by a judge. The bill of indictment was written by a prosecutor, detention order was issued by a judge. The objection was refused by judges of a superior court. Be fair! Where was the media involved in it?

Since when publishing comments has become an offense? Since when getting a scoop on the news has become an offense? Moreover, Mr. Dumanlı and Mr. Karaca are not legally liable as per the press law. It’s clear as day that the sole purpose of the current operation is to intimidate and silence the free media before the Dec. 17.

The element making the operation more ironic is treating the script of the serial as if it reflects real life events. It’s the same wither with the protagonist of a novel or the hero of a serial.Since when crimes are produced out of roles played by actors?

Aren’t you aware that the operation scenario you wrote in order to create perceptions makes a fool of yourself?

Destroying Turkey’s international credibility, such an operation could be attempted only because of a fear that much greater troubles might surface. It seems that there is an effort to prevent the Dec. 17-25 corruption and graft probes from coming to the fore. Again, they aim to conceal the abrasive debates on the cost of new Presidential Palace (AK Saray) or favoritism in civil service recruitment by sidestepping the Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS).

The signal flare for the operation was fired by politicians, as is the custom. Independence of the judiciary was trampled upon once again. A “blackout” operation was launched against the free media. Our democracy gets yet another severe blow.

Published on BGNNews, 14 December 2014, Sunday