September 2, 2015

NGO condemns raid on headquarters of critical media group

Freedom and Democracy Platform President Vedat Öztürk has condemned the unlawful police operation against Koza İpek Holding on Tuesday that came as part of the government's crackdown on critical media, arguing that the operations are being conducted in order to silence opposition voices.

Talking to Today's Zaman, Öztürk claimed that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) conducted the operations because it had lost its majority in Parliament after the June 7 general election. “The party that came to power with the support of 40 percent of the vote wants to intimidate and silence the opposition parties, which have the support of 60 percent [of the electorate],” Öztürk said.

Arguing that the main purpose of the police raids on the headquarters of the critical media group was to silence opposition parties before the Nov. 1 snap election, Öztürk said, “Opposition parties should not fall into the error of political calculations in the face of such unlawfulness and the violation of democracy because what [the AK Party] wants to do is to manipulate the election by overshadowing it with chaos and disorder.”

In a government-led operation, auditors accompanied by police raided the headquarters of Koza İpek Holding in Ankara on Tuesday morning, with simultaneous raids on subsidiaries of the group planned for the same day. The Turkish dailies Bugün and Millet, TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk and the website are all subsidiaries of Koza İpek Holding.

Öztürk further said: “The reason why the Hizmet movement is the primary target [of the raids] is to whitewash political Islam. By conducting operations against the Hizmet movement, which is the best global representative of Islam, those in power are trying to improve the poor reputation that has scarred their own understanding of political Islam.”

Koza İpek Holding is widely thought to be close to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. Similar police raids took place at the headquarters of the Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies and the Cihan news agency, which are also inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

According to Öztürk, such operations will draw Turkey closer “to the dictatorship in Egypt and the practices of the Syrian Baathist regime.” He added that people in Turkey are now aware that the AK Party's motivation for conducting these unlawful operations is to stay in power.

Öztürk also recalled that Koza İpek Holding has been inspected and investigated thoroughly for years. “Even though they know that no real evidence [that can be used against the group] will come out of these operations, they still want to intimidate [those who are critical of the government] with falsified reports in the pro-government media,” he said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 September 2015, Tuesday