The Koza İpek Media Group was silenced ahead of the repeat general election through a political move against diversity and opposition. It is one of the darkest days in the history of the Turkish Republic, which celebrated its 92nd anniversary on Thursday.
I sometimes wonder if the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was right in his cynical presumptions about democracy. He claimed in his magnum opus “The Social Contract” that “were there a people of gods, their government would be democratic. So perfect a government like democracy is not for men.”
He put forth philosophical arguments about the incompatibility or the impossibility of the concurrence of the general will and the will of each individual while at the same time underlining the natural obstacles of individuals to devote their time and money to incessantly make decisions concerning public affairs. This column will surely not get involved in these discussions. But the sharp remark of the French philosopher from three centuries ago applies perfectly to today's Turkey, where one political entity with non-majoritarian popular support has usurped the general will of the people. By the same token, just because a demagogue has ignored the general will of the Turkish people, we will be revisiting the ballot boxes this weekend.
The operation against Koza İpek Holding on the basis of false findings, fabricated accusations and an unjust ruling of a judge marked a new tipping point of a dictatorial regime in Turkey. Newspapers and TV channels of the group were hushed by means of police force. Their management was taken over by administrators associated with the governing party or from among managers of the rival media group, which also has close connections with the government.
I was glued to the TV watching Bugün TV General Manager Tarık Toros fighting to carry on the broadcast, jammed in the tight master control room of the channel, as if watching a sentinel or castellan valiantly guarding his position against a swarm of invaders. He was on air with numerous visitors who flocked to the TV station's headquarters in a show of solidarity for over 10 hours until the moment when the antennas were broken by the police. The editors of the group's newspapers laughed in the vile face of the police force and managed to publish the dailies, printing them in a different place, albeit in much lower numbers than normal.
I felt the honor of being in the same camp and the same occupation as them. But at the same time I felt the deep sorrow that their mouths were shut. A journalist, a friend of mine, was dragged on the ground and severely beaten. Another's leg was broken. Many others were taken into custody. Even these despicable acts of terrorism are like compliments compared to a direct assault on the right of expression. Remember the Prophet Job, the hero of patience, who did not even pray for a cure until his wounds captured his tongue and heart. The media is the tongue of the public and lies at the core of democracy.
I am afraid the pitch of the oppression will increase and remaining silent against such a reckless crackdown against opposing views will not serve anyone's interests -- especially of those who assume they will be safe if they keep silent…
The European Union must have put forth a harsher reaction at the highest level, but a few meek voices from there sufficed to shyly condemn the squelching of the media. Their haggling with the Turkish government over the Syrian refugees must be keeping them away from displaying a more honorable commitment to the core values Europeans claim to be carrying the banner of. The Turkish business world's failure to exhibit a strong reaction to this assault against freedom of expression must be noted as well.
A final word: The politically motivated operation against Koza İpek Holding will certainly exacerbate the already feeble local investment environment. The proprietary rights of a businessman known to have critical views of the government are arbitrarily and shamelessly usurped despite all detailed and meticulous investigations and independent auditing reports finding that the holding's records are perfect. Investors naturally fret risking money in such an ambit where an authority unbounded by current laws may extort their assets however it wishes.
Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday