January 21, 2015

Profiled individuals prepare to sue pro-gov’t media over smear campaign

A number of individuals are preparing to sue pro-government media outlets, including the Sabah and Takvim dailies, which the individuals claim unfairly targeted them for being members of the faith-based Hizmet movement.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Sabah and Takvim dailies published photographs of nine people, including several educators from prep schools (known as dershanes) the government has taken measures to close, depicting them as criminals who engaged in offenses against the government.

Fikri Yazıcı, the lawyer for Ahmet Kirmiç, who was also defamed by the pro-government dailies, denied the allegations and accusations leveled against his client and announced that Kirmiç and the other defamed individuals are preparing to sue the outlets for targeting and profiling people on the basis of fabricated accusations.

In their reports, Sabah and Takvim ran headlines targeting nine people and accused them of being members of the "parallel state," a term coined by former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to defame the members of the Hizmet movement following a corruption scandal that that broke on Dec. 17, 2013, which implicated key government figures.

Yazıcı stressed that his client, the CEO of FEM prep schools, was characterized as being responsible for managing affairs in the Marmara region for the so-called parallel state, and that his client's photograph and personal information were published by the media outlets.

"Kirmiç and the institution that he is working for were targeted with this coverage. Such fictional and slanderous reports serve to manipulate public opinion. All claims about those individuals are false and we will take legal action against the perpetrators," Yazıcı said.

Yazıcı also said Kirmiç has sent a disclaimer to the dailies and added that his client has been working as an educator for nearly 30 years and now is the CEO of FEM prep schools after serving in various positions in the educational institution.

Since the graft scandal went on public in late December 2013, the government has made the Hizmet movement, whose ideas are inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, a scapegoat for any move or practice that reveals government wrongdoing. Taking the issue personally, Erdoğan has waged a war on the movement and vowed to launch a "witch hunt" on the members of the movement and to eliminate it at home and abroad. Since then, a number of police operations against the police department, media outlets and individuals were initiated, accusing them of being the elements of the "parallel state."

The pro-government media have also been mobilized against the movement through instructions asking them to produce fabricated coverage defaming the movement. Such government-led attempts are frequently criticized by the European Union and many civil society organizations amid ongoing efforts to bury a massive corruption scandal that shook the government.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 January 2015, Wednesday