October 12, 2015

Erdoğan destroys the last shred of legitimacy

Adem Yavuz Arslan

When one of the bloodiest terror attacks in our history occurred on Saturday morning in Ankara, Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş was arrested at the İstanbul Courthouse for critical tweets.

More than 100 people were killed in the attack right in the heart of the capital. However, the Palace was obsessed with silencing free media.

We do not know whose turn it is to get arrested or beaten now, but all we know is that Erdoğan aims to turn every media outlet into a pro-government mouthpiece.

So that no one would be able to discuss the intelligence and security gaps leading to the Ankara attack. No one would question the fact that police officers in intelligence and counterterrorism units were rendered unable to perform their main duty due to raids on kindergartens and school searches.

In the absence of courageous and free journalists, the Palace and the government would not face disturbing questions and reports.

That’s why they arrested Bülent Keneş.

Just as they arrested Hidayet Karaca, Mehmet Baransu, and Gültekin Avcı before. They are determined to silence through censorship those they could not arrest.

Critical and independent media, which was removed from Tivibu platform earlier on the order of the Palace itself, was removed this time from Digiturk last week.

As a result, 7 TV channels including BUGÜN TV and Kanaltürk were instantly switched off. This is no different than coup-era practices. Those staging military coups also used to seize the media first. This government does the same.

The resulting scandal did not satisfy the government’s henchmen, though. For they think the whole media except for the pro-government media should be seized and independent journalists should be arrested.

The mood of the Palace is evident.

You would expect anything from those who say, “There is not even water to drink for them” and who harass even the babies at kindergartens.

Besides, we have witnessed since June 7 [elections] that they would do everything to maintain their murky power.

How does Washington watch and interpret these developments?

First, let me note this: The priority for the US is always its national interests. They are particularly good at working with governments that are in a tight corner and ready to make any concessions.

In its relations with Ankara, Washington has always acted in accordance with its national interests. It has not raised its voice openly as long as it got what it wanted.

But that does not mean that the Obama administration is indifferent to human rights violations in Turkey.

On the contrary, every development is closely followed.

Everything is written down in official records and reports. You can be sure that they convey these notes to their Turkish counterparts behind closed doors.

Although US Congress and the media criticize the Obama administration for ‘keeping quiet about the anti-democratic practices in Turkey’, the White House kept a low profile.

They justified this stance with this argument: “Despite everything, Turkey is not a Middle Eastern or Central Asian country. It has a functioning democracy in spite of some problems.”

In other words, what made Erdoğan ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of the US despite all kinds of anti-democratic practices was the ballot box.

But with the AKP increasing its stranglehold on the media, with the arrests of critical journalists and the launch of censorship, the atmosphere in the US capital began to change.

When you look at the official statements made recently, you see an emphasis on ‘fair and free elections.’ Because the US interprets the latest developments as intervention in elections.

Indeed, an official statement by the State Department first reacted against Digiturk censorship and the arrest of Keneş and then said, ‘We want to see free, fair and credible elections.’

Put succinctly, what made Erdoğan legitimate despite everything was ‘free and fair elections.’

Erdoğan has destroyed the last shred of legitimacy by having journalists arrested, applying censorship to the independent media, and engaging in acts that would cast doubt on election security.

Published on BGNNews, 11 Ocotber 2015, Sunday