June 17, 2016

How I became an ‘indecent’ journalist overnight and fired?

Selcuk Gultasli*

Back in April, I realized I had a message at my answering machine. Surprisingly it was the first call from my newspaper in almost a month after it was brutally seized by the court appointed so-called trustees. Deeply excited, I listened to the message. A gentle voice was breaking the news that I was fired but they were not able to deliver the notification as I was abroad. So I had to give them a proper email.

I called the owner of the gentle voice and asked him why I was fired. He said I would learn the reasons as soon as I would give him a functioning email. I did what he said.

The official notice of sacking reveals I have been fired because of the mistakes I committed according to article 25/II of Turkish Labor Law, number 4587. It says because I committed actions contrary to morality, good intentions, loyalty and truthfulness; I have been fired from the newspaper I have been working since 1991. Wondering what the article says, I checked the online law books to learn what crimes I had committed to deserve being sacked? Insulting the owner or a member of his family; to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs or use them while in office; stealing; lying and the jewel of the crown; sexual harassment at the work place.

After reading the possible crimes I had committed, I called the paper to talk to one of the trustees to learn if he had any proof to offer. His assistant promised me he would call back. I have been waiting the call as I write this article.

The reason the trustees have fired so many of us based on 25/II is the fact that all possible benefits you might have after decades of work are gone when the employer sacks you from this article. So, President Erdoğan not only brutally confiscated my newspaper ZAMAN but he is doing his best to make us suffer even after we are fired without any payment and social rights.

Erdoğan regime has confiscated two big media groups, appointed them trustees, turned their critical lines into pro-government mouthpieces overnight. Each day there is a smiling Erdoğan on the front page of ZAMAN informing the public how he has scolded the German Chancellor Merkel on visa debates or the giant projects that all Europeans are envying.

The two newspapers and two channels of IPEK group, which were previously confiscated, have been closed down after several months of disgusting AKP propaganda. It is only a matter of time that the trustees will also cease the publication of Turkey’s once largest newspaper.

ZAMAN had a daily circulation of around 650.000 when it was brutally seized. It is now about 2500, almost all of them going to government agencies. With the plunder of ZAMAN, Erdoğan and his cronies now control 90% of the print media. In terms of TV broadcasting, the control is almost complete.

One should not make the mistake thinking Erdoğan would let it go after the silencing of Hizmet inspired media outlets (Hizmet is a religious movement led by US based scholar Mr. Fethullah Gülen whom Erdoğan accuses of engineering a coup d’état in the guise of corruption).

Erdoğan is not happy about the critical voices whether they are published, tweeted or shared at Instagram. Two weeks ago, Ms. Turkey of 2006 Merve Büyüksaraç has been given suspended 14 months in jail for insulting President Erdoğan for a poem she posted on her Instagram account. Editor in chief of Cumhuriyet daily, a Kemalist-Leftists newspaper has been handed a suspended 5 years 10 months sentence for publishing classified government documents.

At the beginning of this month, the Chief Prosecutor in Ankara has opened investigations against 9 TVs and 2 dailies, all of them incidentally critical of President Erdoğan and the government. Also, the only remaining opposition voices.

While all these terrible things are happening in Turkey and EU diplomats in Brussels know very well that Turkey is not fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria anymore, German Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps promising to open new EU chapters with Ankara. The bargain is simple: Erdoğan will keep refugees in Turkey and EU will keep her silence on the slaughter of Turkish democracy.

*Selcuk Gultasli is the former ZAMAN Brussels Bureau Chief

Published on Vocal Europe, 16 June 2016, Thursday