September 4, 2015

Columnists say AK Party wants to ban any critical voice to maintain rule

Columnists from various media outlets have harshly criticized the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)-led operation against the critical İpek Media Group, saying that the AK Party wants to silence any critical voice that may jeopardize its plans to regain its parliamentary majority in order to maintain its rule.

Auditors accompanied by a police escort conducted a raid on the headquarters of Koza İpek Holding in Ankara on Tuesday morning while simultaneous raids on subsidiaries of the group were also carried out elsewhere as part of an AK Party-initiated media crackdown.

Koza İpek Holding is active in several sectors, including the media, energy and mining. The Bugün and Millet dailies, TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, and the website are all subsidiaries of the İpek Media Group. Among the locations raided at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday was the campus of İpek University in Ankara. The operations against Koza İpek Holding were conducted by the Finance Ministry's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK).

Doğu Ergil, a Bugün daily columnist, wrote in his Thursday column that the AK Party has become more and more authoritarian as its acts have been increasingly criticized in the media or in public, thus it has initiated an attempt to block all possible means of criticism or opposition, but this attempt will be in vain. Ergil says the aim of the AK Party is to cover up its injustices, misconduct and corruption by silencing the critics, but it is impossible to maintain such a regime in Turkey.

In his column published in the Hürriyet daily on Thursday, Mehmet Yılmaz said the ruling AK Party wants to create “a monophonic media” in Turkey, which will not include even one critical voice. Referring to the “pool media,” Yılmaz said that the AK Party does not even have any tolerance for “the slightest possible critical comment” that may come from media outlets funded via the pool system.

The term “pool media” refers to a pool of funds contributed by pro-government businessmen in return for favors in the form of public tenders over the past five years.

Supporting his argument, Yılmaz recalled that the government immediately terminated its additional advertising funds for a pro-government daily called "Diriliş Postası" (Mail of Resurrection), when the newspaper's Editor-in-Chief Hakan Bayraktar on Wednesday published a column in which he directed some minor criticisms towards Erdoğan and the AK Party. The column's headline was “Hür yandaşlığın kalesi” (The castle of free partisanship).

Columnist Yavuz Baydar, also from the Bugün daily, wrote in his column published on Wednesday that the raids on the İpek Media Group clearly mean that the AK Party government is ready to take any initiative to silence the voice of any outlet from the free and independent media to maintain its rule in the country. Baydar fears that the raids on the İpek Media Group will not be the last, saying that the government is planning more raids on critical media outlets in the coming days.

Ilıcak: AK Party accuses Hizmet of terrorism, but AK Party transferring arms to ISIL

Bugün daily columnist Nazlı Ilıcak wrote on Wednesday in her column that the reason behind the recent raids on Koza İpek Holding is the AK Party-led accusation of “financing terrorism,” adding that Turkey already knows those politicians who provide the terrorists with arms, referring to several Syria-bound trucks operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) that were searched in January 2014 after prosecutors received tip-offs that they were illegally carrying arms to Syria.

Ilıcak said the Cumhuriyet and Bugün dailies published some photos clearly proving that MİT trucks were carrying arms to Syria. Ilıcak says the AK Party accuses the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the ideas of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of engaging in terrorism, and raids any institution believed to have links with the movement, but there is strong evidence that the government transferred arms to Syria for the radical terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Mustafa Balbay, a Cumhuriyet daily columnist, said in his column on Wednesday that anyone who is critical of the AK Party has the risk of being called a terrorist some time in the future, adding that it should not be forgotten that any operation conducted against any media outlet or group without discrimination in terms of ideology or stance means an attack against the public's right to information.

After the exposure of a major graft scandal on Dec. 17, 2013 which implicated various high-ranking AK Party government officials, the AK Party began to stifle the activity of any institution or media outlet that carried critical coverage of its policies. The new policy included a major reshuffle among state bureaucrats and increased control over the judiciary and pressure on the media.

The AK Party's infamous accreditation practices were applied to critical media outlets because of the Dec. 17 revelations, leading to bans on media outlets critical of the government from attending government functions. In addition to banning journalists from events such as ministry press conferences, the bans also restricted media coverage of important events such as a NATO meeting held in Turkey in May.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 September 2015, Friday