December 24, 2014

Dumanlı: Dec. 14 will be remembered as day of coup against free press

Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, has said the Dec. 14 operation against Turkey's best-selling daily and a major TV station has gone down in history as a coup against press freedom, in an interview with the Samanyolu Haber TV channel on Tuesday.

Journalist Ekrem Dumanlı speaks in an interview with Samanyolu TV
Journalist Ekrem Dumanlı speaks in an interview with Samanyolu TV

Dumanlı was among 31 people detained in the government-backed Dec. 14 operation against journalists, including Samanyolu TV station General Manager Hidayet Karaca, and several members of the police force who were accused of “being members of a terrorist group.” Dumanlı was released on Dec. 19 due to a lack of evidence.

Karaca and three police officers were arrested on charges of forming and being a member of an armed terrorist group based on a once-popular soap opera called "Tek Türkiye" (One Turkey) broadcasted by Samanyolu TV some years ago.

Referring to the arrest of Karaca based on a soap opera script, Dumanlı said such a decision is ridiculous and if scripts were seen as evidence of crime, then all movies and TV series should be regarded as potential elements of crime.

“In the final scene [of “Fight Club”], the Twin Towers are seen collapsing. Two years after [Fight Club was shot in] 1999, the Twin Towers were attacked. If the logic of the prosecutor [of the Dec. 14 investigation] is followed, than Edward [Norton] or Brad Pitt should also be detained,” said Dumanlı.

Dumanlı stated he was baffled when the judge had said he was accused of being a member of a terrorist group and that the evidence was two columns and a report published in his newspaper. He demanded that he be allowed to defend himself in lieu of his lawyers, Dumanlı went on to add.

He said he made his defense in court in these words: “What do these [columns] have to do with me? They were written by Ahmet Şahin and Hüseyin Gülerce. A speech by [Turkish Islamic scholar] Fethullah Gülen, which was open to the public on the website ‘,' was published on the third page of the Zaman daily. That is all. How is it that I am associated with an armed terrorist organization that doesn't even exist? What sort of nonsense is this?”

Dumanlı also stressed that if one is not involved in any crime, one does not have to fear.

“I told the press [before the police came to Zaman's headquarters to detain Dumanlı] that we would go [to court] as though we are going to a wedding ceremony, because only those who are guilty feel fear,” said Dumanlı.

Dec. 14 a turning point

Dumanlı maintained that the Dec. 14 operation was a turning point in Turkey for anyone who voices criticism against the government.

“[From now on] if one causes displeasure or unease [on the part of the government], if he speaks, writes, voices dissent; regardless of whether that person is a politician, journalist or an artist, a circle is drawn around him. … That person is held back from doing his job,” Dumanlı said.

Referring to the amendment of a penal code which facilitated the arbitrary detention of individuals based on “reasonable suspicion” before the Dec. 14 operation, Dumanlı said justice cannot be served under such circumstances.

“To put on trial [individuals who criticize the government] a special tribunal is formed. ... You cannot talk about law [under such conditions],” said Dumanlı.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 December 2014, Wednesday