December 19, 2014

The state should become transparent, the media should not keep silent

Kemal Burkay*

The operation on Dec. 14 against a number of journalists and scriptwriters, including Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca, raised some concerns about media freedom within domestic and international circles. It is, of course, natural for the judiciary to investigate any illegal acts committed by suspects who were placed under detention if there is strong evidence to substantiate claims of their criminality. However, operations staged to silence and intimidate journalists, whose job is to comment on and analyze what is happening, cannot be endorsed. Such attempts weaken the state of confidence in the country and aggravate the tension.

This country has witnessed many attempts and initiatives by political administrations to teach a lesson to the dissident media. This has been done by economic pressure as well as other methods, including a politicized judiciary -- which failed the test of freedom in the past. The country's legal history is full of such scandalous examples. For this reason, freedom of thought and freedom of the media have always been at the top of the national agenda.

My personal hope with regards to this recent operation is that there is compliance with the law and an impartial investigation. I have experienced this many times in my life. For instance, I was arrested in 1966 because of an article I wrote. Despite that, the judge who handled the case dismissed the motion for arrest. I was brought before another judge without any change in evidence on the same day; in other words, laws were violated to ensure my arrest. On the other hand, it cannot be said that the media successfully passed the test it was subjected to in the past. In most cases, the media avoided telling the truth because of fear of pressure from the political administration, and sometimes they manipulated public opinion. They were also voluntarily involved in campaigns of slander, unjust accusations and censorship in order to please the government and the state.

Personally, I have been a target of such campaigns; for instance, the media in this country imposed censorship in the Sept. 12 era on me and the organization I was chairing. For a long time, news reports on the Kurdish issue were subjected to censorship and initial review by intelligence agencies before publication.

The embargo imposed on me and the Rights and Freedoms Party (HAK-PAR) in the most recent local elections was also of the same type. The Turkish media, as a whole, remained subscribed to this embargo in the six months leading up to the elections. They ignored us, and they still do.

Undoubtedly, Turkey has a long way to go in order to achieve democratic standards. The EU's standards are important in this respect, and it would be a huge mistake if Turkey were to move away from Europe. If this happens, Turkey will be dragged into the intricate relations and political affairs of the Middle East, which is currently experiencing turmoil and instability.

In order to attain advanced democratic and human rights standards, Turkey has to confront its pressing problems including the Kurdish issue. The state should be more transparent. Without this, we will not be able to address violence, corruption, social conflict and disagreement, and a number of problems we are dealing with right now.

The intellectuals of this country have to focus on the resolution of the major issues in Turkey. Unless this is done, we will still have the problems we are experiencing right now and will see more operations to repress media freedom.

*Kemal Burkay is a politician and writer.

The witch hunt should end
Ferhat Kentel**

The operation against the Fethullah Gülen group has two dimensions: first, covering up the Dec. 17-25 corruption operations; and second, a power struggle within the state. Some factions within the state, and those who were allies in the past before a revolution broke their alliances, are creating new alliances for a new power struggle.

There is no complete right or wrong in this struggle -- there is no black and white. However, there have always been attempts to create “enemies” in a large number of incidents and cases including the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) arrests, the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup attempts, the polarizing techniques in the judicial process, the legal cases against Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, the demonization of the Gezi protests and the murder of Hrant Dink. There are many examples of this in the media.

Ahmet Şık and many leftist and pro-Kurdish journalists were subjected to symbolic lynching in the past by reliance on the argument that they were not arrested because of their journalistic activities. Today, the same logic reigns in the recent detentions. A newspaper that relied on this logic in the past is subjected to the same treatment, but this does not mean that how they are treated now should be justified. Besides, in the construction of polarization, to which Zaman also made its own contributions, those who are aggressively against Zaman have now also joined that campaign, and because Zaman's reports contributed to their revolutionary agenda, they were encouraged and praised for what they were doing.

In conclusion, if proper measures are not taken to address the state of totalitarian domination and repression, the ongoing operations will lead to irreparable damage and unresolvable animosity in the near future. We need to recall reason and mindful action for the reconstruction of social peace. The witch hunt should be ended, and we need to reconstruct a culture of democracy by establishing press freedom and readdressing such noble notions and practices as elections, legislation, executive power and judicial independence.

**Professor Ferhat Kentel is a sociologist and writer.

Middle East operation
Mehmet Altan***

The illegal operation conducted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration against the media will be remembered in Turkish history as “Black Sunday.” This was not just an operation staged by a man who collaborated with the deep state to cover up corruption charges against him. This was also a clear indication of the change of the route and direction of Turkey's two-century-old journey, which will soon have some grave and historic breakdowns and repercussions. The political administration in Turkey with this operation burned its bridges with the Western world and changed its direction towards the Middle East.

This administration actually knew that the operation staged against journalists, including Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and other journalists affiliated with the Gülen movement, would cause a serious deterioration in Turkey's relations with Europe. Despite this, the operation was staged on Sunday, and Europe issued some strong statements of condemnation. Its statements indicated that “Hitler fascism a la Turka” would not tolerated in Europe.

They are seeking to create a Middle Eastern country where a chief will have all discretion and power to rule, where the political administration cannot be held accountable and where the government is free to be corrupt. It seems that the AKP is trying to base its “fascism a la Turka” on two legs. On the one hand, it stages operations to oppress the media in order to create an entirely pro-government media, and on the other hand, it also consolidates an anti-secularist front by relying on discourse that claims they are in politics to please God, by waging campaigns to oppose secularist styles in education and by trying to impose the Ottoman Turkish language as a compulsory course in some educational institutions.

The AKP is trying to invent a new religion where corruption is not considered a prohibited act, stealing is sanctified and bribery is regarded as ordinary. They are further consolidating this religion by reference to a single man, because the AKP is also trying to create a support base that will not change its political position based on economic or social changes. This is not something that could be done by politics; it could only be done by religious pretexts and justifications. For this reason, they are inventing this patrimonial religion. They have to create a support base and community and part ways with Europe because they cannot risk their rule in a country where economic deterioration is experienced.

The AKP support base saw that thousands of people said their farewells to Ekrem Dumanlı, whose detention by the government was justified by reference to a so-called “parallel state.” This farewell will influence the people who consider themselves religious. It will be very hard to accept this treatment.

Maybe there is no ideology in Turkey for which the people fight, but there is certainly a lifestyle for which they would fight. I believe that seeing secular circles oppose an operation staged against a religious community is a first in Turkey.

Can the AKP make this country another Libya or Iraq in the Middle East by inventing a new religion, arresting its opponents, silencing the media and reorienting its foreign policy direction? I think they cannot. But they want to try it. The recent operation clearly shows they do. I wish all the best for Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, who stand bravely against repression, despite intimidation and threats.

I would like to remind all Muslims and secular people in Turkey of the fact that we are having a difficult time and that even minor hesitance on protecting freedoms could cause huge troubles. This political administration is taking the country to the brink of collapse -- this is not a joke.

***Mehmet Altan is a journalist and writer. This piece was originally published in Turkish on on Dec. 15, 2014.

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 December 2014, Friday