December 22, 2014

[News Analysis] Recent series of legal changes prove a plot against journalists

Hanım Büşra Erdal

The Dec. 14 police operation targeting the media, one of the most significant attacks on the Turkish media, had long been planned given the developments in recent years and the statements made by politicians as well as changes made in legislation to allow the detention of journalists.

Following detention and interrogation that strayed from usual procedure, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, Ekrem Dumanlı, was released while the director of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Hidayet Karaca was arrested on Friday. Karaca is accused of being an executive of a terrorist organization due to dialogue in a TV series aired on Samanyolu TV. Dumanlı was accused of targeting the sovereignty of the state with two articles and a news report in Zaman. When Dumanlı asked Judge Bekin Altun, “Is this news article and these columns the evidence against me?” the judge said, “Yes.” In his verdict, Judge Altun stated Dumanlı had not engaged in any violent acts. If so, why were they accused of forming a terrorist organization? To have an answer and realize that these legal proceedings are a “project/plot” one has to analyze the recent developments in Turkey.

Despite the common belief, the standoff between then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Hizmet movement did not start with the unfolding of the massive corruption investigations on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013. There has been talk that Erdoğan has been profiling people within the bureaucracy who are affiliated with the Hizmet movement and purging them since 2012. What is taking place now is a continuation of this project.

In December 2013, Erdoğan announced in his rally in Ordu province: “We will enter their lairs” and went on with further purges within government institutions, including the judiciary, the police force and the Scientific and Technological Reearch Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). In February 2014, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) was restructured. The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was granted additional immunity and authority to profile citizens. Although the law on the HSYK was annulled by the Constitutional Court, all other changes remain in place. With all his statements, Erdoğan has been the primary supporter of these legal changes, which have led to a change in the system.

On his way back from France on June 22, 2014, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan himself announced that he is working on a project. “We are developing a project, laying the infrastructure for it,” he told journalists on his private jet. Even worse, in response to the question “Have you started entering their lairs?” in reference to the Hizmet movement, Erdoğan said the following: “The parallel judiciary has been blocking the steps of the executive. When the president approves the legal changes, we will take faster steps.” He went on to say an international arrest warrant [for Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen] will be issued announcing the start of the unlawful process.

Ignoring the basic principles of the rule of law, on July 18, the HSYK appointed six specially authorized judges, one of whom was the judge who released the suspects of the Dec. 17 corruption investigation.

The crackdown on the media was followed by a new law allowing the detention and arrest of people and the seizure of private property based on “reasonable suspicion.” The law was approved by President Erdoğan on Friday, Dec. 12, and the media raids took place shortly thereafter. Immediately after the raid on the media outlets, Erdoğan said on Dec. 15: “We entered their lairs.” According to Erdoğan, despite the evidence the judiciary was unable to deal with “treason.” He argued that they saved the judiciary from threats and blackmail without presenting a single concrete piece of evidence. His statements alone are sufficient to prove that the investigation targeting the media is only a revenge project that aims to eliminate the Hizmet movement.

The prosecutors who took part in this judicial project made a scandalous mistake by requesting arrest on “slender,” which the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) has since 2011 not considered a crime. Apparently the prosecutors either do not follow the laws or some others conducted this operation against the journalists.

The crackdown on the media is an excuse to target Fethullah Gülen, who was acquitted of charges of engaging in terrorism in June 2008.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 December 2014, Sunday