December 15, 2014

Detentions extend to 9 staff members of TV series

Nine individuals, including the producer, director and assistant scriptwriters -- one with a young child -- of Samanyolu TV's once very popular TV series “Tek Türkiye” (One Turkey) were among those detained during Sunday's police operations conducted against critical media outlets across the country.

Tek Turkiye

The TV series producer, Salih Asan, was detained in the province of Eskişehir after a police search of his home in the early hours of Sunday. Director Naci Çelik Berksoy, assistant director Engin Koç, screenwriter Ali Sami Noyan, assistant scriptwriters Radiye Ebru Şenvardar, Makbule Çam Alemdağ, Hikmet Tombulca, Ali Kara and Elif Yılmaz were also detained, according to Yunus Aylıdere, Samanyolu's TV series coordinator who spoke to Today's Zaman on Sunday about the detentions.

Makbule Çam Alemdağ, who was detained in the eastern province of Van, has a 20-month-old baby girl. Alemdağ took her baby with her when she was brought to İstanbul for interrogation and members of her family will care for the child while Alemdağ is in police custody.

Aylıdere said he was very surprised about the detentions of people who worked for the TV series, calling the situation “unacceptable and tragicomic.” He also said Alemdağ, who took part in the project as a young, promising assistant screenwriter, is no longer working in the profession; she left the TV station three years ago following her marriage.

According to Aylıdere, the names of those detained who were associated with “Tek Türkiye” must have been taken from the TV show's credits.

Elif Yılmaz's father Asım was also very surprised about the detention of his daughter, who he said used to work as an intern for “Tek Türkiye.”

“My daughter is a TV broadcaster. She was detained because of a job she had as an intern four years ago. The unlawfulness in the country has reached the media and the arts. We are following developments with surprise,” said Yılmaz's father.

He also said he gave the police officers who raided his home at 6 a.m. on Sunday his daughter's current address.

“We are not hiding from anyone,” added the father.

When asked about the reason that might have led to the detentions of the program's staff, Aylıdere said he has no information because the dossier is confidential, but he just knows the claims cited in the pro-government media as the explanation for the detentions.

Pro-government media outlets ran stories on Sunday claiming that the TV program staff detentions were linked to an alleged conspiracy against an al-Qaeda linked terror group named “Tahşiyeciler” (roughly translated as Annotators).

Turkey learned about the Tahşiyeciler group on Jan.22, 2010 when police raided the homes and offices of 112 people across Turkey as part of al-Qaeda sweeps. Police discovered two hand grenades, ammunition and maps that were allegedly part of an impending plot to stage a terror attack in Turkey.

This group, which is reportedly known for its opposition to the faith-based Hizmet movement and Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, due to the Hizmet movement's promotion of interfaith dialogue, was allegedly pointed to by the TV series as a “shadowy organization,” leading to the arrest of Mehmet Doğan, the group's leader.

The pro-government media claimed that several days after Gülen targeted the group in one of his speeches in 2009, the TV series took aim at the group and Doğan had the spend months in prison as a result of this “conspiracy.”

Aylıdere voiced his astonishment at these claims, saying that the plot of the TV series and the events it covered were just fiction and had nothing to do with real life or real persons.

He said if one were to derive such meaning from the events in a TV series, it would never be possible to shoot TV films or movies anywhere in the world.

The "Tek Türkiye" drama told the story of a young, idealistic doctor who travels to the Southeast from İstanbul -- without knowing that he was born in the region -- in a bid to help the local population who have been suffering for decades from terrorism perpetrated by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The TV series broke primetime ratings records during the time it aired on Samanyolu TV between 2007 and 2011 despite a limited budget and non-celebrity stars.

Government figures at the time praised the show for mirroring real life in the country's terror-stricken Southeast.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç once said he and his family were fans of “Tek Türkiye.”

The pro-government daily Yeni Şafak also earlier interviewed the show's stars and praised the program's success.

Now, along with other pro-government media outlets, Yeni Şafak is presenting the detentions as targeting the “parallel structure” or “parallel state,” terms coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last year to refer to the Hizmet movement after senior members of Erdoğan's government, who was the prime minister at the time, were implicated in a large-scale graft probe.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 14 December 2014, Sunday