It is 3.20 a.m. İstanbul time and I am writing this piece to share my impressions from a truly historic night for a journalist. For those of you who have not yet heard, as journalists at Zaman media group, including the largest selling daily Zaman and English daily Today’s Zaman, we are waiting for a likely police raid to our newspaper since Turkey’s mostly reliable whistleblower nicknamed Fuat Avni on Twitter has been telling about an operation instructed by the increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to place further pressure on critical and independent media in Turkey.
Erdoğan has been threatening the Zaman media group especially since the corruption investigations that involve his son as a suspect broke out last December. The majority of the so-called mainstream media has mostly surrendered to his intimidation. When Zaman refused to bow to pressure, different forms of punishments gained momentum. As Fuat Avni claims editor in chiefs of Zaman and Today’s Zaman, Ekrem Dumanlı and Bülent Keneş are among the possible detainees of an operation that is expected in a couple of hours. I am not sure whether I am among the targeted journalists, but to be honest if I am included, it would only be a badge of honor against this highly despotic government which promised to take Turkey to Brussels and succeeded to persuade us for a while.
Call us a bunch of lunatics, but since the first night of rumors of an operation, as editors and columnists at Zaman, we have a hard time explaining the joy and serenity that we feel. When one of us said “why do I feel so comfortable” another colleague said “because we are confident that we are innocent” during the first vigil we had on Thursday night along with our readers who gathered outside the newspaper building despite the cold.
When we heard of the second call for an operation, this time with specific names to be detained, we again met at the newspaper shortly before midnight to meet the police force whenever they appear. Fed up with the level of nonsense we experience in this country and the arbitrary rule, we almost want this raid to take place so that we could be done with it.
One of the main targets of the government, Dumanlı was calm as usual welcoming his guests and other colleagues to his large office on the fourth floor of the building. Soon we began to hear the slogans outside in support of the newspaper and defying the oppression of the AK Party rule in the country. As he did on Thursday night, Dumanlı went out and addressed to the crowd underlining that this newspaper has not done anything to let its readership down.
“Do not be scared” he urged the crowd as he said that Zaman will not be silenced by any pressure. Underlining that this is not a feud between the Gülen movement that Zaman is inspired by and the government, Dumanlı said that this operation is an attempt to intimidate independent media and a blow to media freedoms. He called on all media members, regardless of their political or ideological stance, to stand up against pressure since this crackdown would not stop with Zaman.
Zaman journalists call their wait at the newspaper a vigil for democracy and thank their readers for their support even after midnight. It was almost a display of the meaning of Zaman for the people as an advocate of freedoms in Turkey since the crowd seemed openly frustrated with the rising unlawfulness in the country.
While listening to Dumanlı with enthusiasm the crowd showed no sign of despair just like the journalists at Zaman. On the contrary, as Dumanlı stressed that they will not surrender to the oppressor, the crowd supported him with slogans. Slogans and activism are not usually associated with the sympathizers of the Gülen movement since they are known for their calm stance, but apparently they were fed up with the ongoing slander and smear campaign led by Erdoğan and the media controlled by him.
Shortly before I started writing this piece, Dumanlı who is expected to be detained in a few hours, held the last newsroom meeting with us as he told us to make an even better newspaper.
It is 3:42 am and along with my colleagues I’ll continue to wait for the police force of the party state.
Let me reiterate one more time: We refuse to be silenced and demand a democratic Turkey!
Published on Platform for Independent Journalism, 14 December 2014, Sunday