December 22, 2014

Zaman Editorial Board: No retreat from democracy

The Zaman daily, whose Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı was detained and then released as part of a government-backed police operation against the Turkish media and several police officers on Dec. 14, has released a statement on his newspaper's front page on Sunday, in which the paper expressed full support for Turkey's democracy and promised that there will be no turning back from from it.

In its statement, the Zaman daily's editors emphasized the significance of democracy, the supremacy of law, the separation of powers and fundamental rights and freedoms for the Turkish nation. At the end of statement, the Zaman editors called on the people to protect democracy, the superiority of law and the freedom of the media, promising that there will be “no retreat from democracy” in Turkey.

Dumanlı and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group's Chairman Hidayet Karaca, in addition to the producer, director and assistant scriptwriters of Samanyolu TV's once very popular TV series “Tek Türkiye” (One Turkey) were taken into custody in the police raids conducted on Dec. 14. Karaca and three former police officers were arrested, while Dumanlı was released on Friday.

This police operation has largely been viewed as a politically motivated crackdown on media critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The editorial statement released by the Zaman newspaper's management over the recent government-orchestrated media crackdown on Turkish media is as follows:
Freedom of the press does not just consist of the freedom of media employees; it consists of the whole society's freedom of information. It is also the premise for fundamental human rights, and the right to life in particular.

Universal human rights cannot be mentioned in a country where columns, news stories and scenarios on TV series are considered evidence for accusations of being part of an armed terrorist organization; where fan groups are being tried as coup makers; where businessmen who emphasize the law in their dealings are labeled traitors; where a global-based peace, education and dialogue movement is stigmatized by being associated with terrorism; where intellectuals from various segments of society are being silenced with pressure and where political parties cannot find a hall to conduct any of their activities. Under these circumstances, anyone who thinks differently is under threat. Thus, the Zaman daily sees this strong attack directed at its corporate identity as a form of pressure deliberately directed at the heart of pluralistic democracy.

The attitude of our newspaper has never changed from its first edition to now and it will never change: Our struggle is to protect universal democratic values and institutions with faith and determination.

We consider the basic institutions and concepts of pluralistic democracy within the scope of the concept of “ma'ruf,” a concept used to refer to things “deemed appropriate and pleasant in terms of reason and religion.” We find the fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of every man, the rule of law, separation and balance of powers, freedom of the press, the transparent accountability of the public administration towards the public, the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of religion as very significant and essential for the whole of humanity, and Muslim communities in particular. We have been supporting Turkey's European Union membership from the beginning with this understanding. We see the current's government's departure from this line and its adoption of an authoritarian way of thought as the cause of the law and democracy crisis that we are in now.

The serious unlawful acts that have suffocated Turkey are not only directed at our newspaper but also at our right to live together in peace with all colors, faiths, ethnic identities and political differences.

We are in solidarity with all circles which share universal democratic values. In particular, we are analyzing criticism about our previous publications in an effective and accurate manner and we also consider all the constructive criticisms directed at our newspaper.

We will always take humanity's common values and experiences gained into consideration. Therefore, we take pleasure in expressing our gratitude to the democratic community, both within Turkey and around the globe, who provide their full support and constructive criticism to us; our counterparts; intellectual circles; and our readers, who give us power with their prayers.

It is the day for bravely protecting democracy, superiority of law and the freedom of the media.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 December 2014, Sunday