February 11, 2015

Pro-gov’t media smears people affiliated with Gülen movement on Erdoğan’s instructions

After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a group of journalists from pro-government media outlets that key names in the Gülen movement -- also known as Hizmet -- in foreign countries would be revealed on Sunday, the Star daily published a list of people affiliated globally with the faith-based movement on Wednesday.

The Star daily, which is known as a mouthpiece for the government and Erdoğan, ran a front-page story titled "World imams of the Hizmet movement," accompanied by photographs of those people.

Most of the photographs were from official documents such as passports, suggesting that state agencies, in particular the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), were also part of the smear campaign against those named in Star.

Such a smear campaign is similar to those conducted during the Feb. 28, 1997 process, which was characterized by mass profiling, and the purging of military officers and bureaucrats who were deemed pious by the General Staff.

After the biggest corruption scandal in the country's history broke on Dec. 17, 2013, implicating then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his inner circle and four former ministers, Erdoğan targeted the Hizmet movement by accusing it of plotting against the government through the graft scandal. Coining the term "parallel state," Erdoğan vowed to "uproot" the movement and launch a "witch hunt" against its members at home and abroad.

The pro-government media outlets also undertook an active role in this process of defamation through many fabricated reports about those with links to Hizmet.

The photographs published by Star are from official documents, prompting concerns among society that personal information, considered to be under the protection of the state, was leaked by the state's key agencies to pro-government media outlets, violating fundamental rights.

Published on Today's Zaman, 11 February 2015, Wednesday