December 15, 2014

Journalists show solidarity in wake of gov’t crackdown

The detention of Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı following a police raid on the newspaper's headquarters on Sunday has prompted some veteran journalists to speak out against the government crackdown on the daily and indicate their solidarity with the paper.

Renowned journalist Hasan Cemal, who writes for the T24 news portal, visited Zaman immediately after Dumanlı's detention, where he chatted with the daily's staff and recalled memories of government pressure on the media during coup times in the country. He said there has never been so much pressure on the media in the country, including during those same coup periods.

“There were military coups in the past. Now, a civilian coup is being staged. This coup is being done to cover up allegations of corruption, theft and bribery. This is what the unfortunate thing is,” Cemal said.

He was referring to the graft allegations faced by senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials in a probe that was made public on Dec. 17 of last year.

“It is never possible to stop Zaman or silence it. Everyone should keep this in mind,” added Cemal.

Cemal himself was also victimized by government pressure on the media last year as he was forced to resign from the Milliyet daily, at which he had worked many years, after then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted him in public for his journalism.

Another veteran journalist, Radikal columnist Cengiz Çandar, reacted against the operation via his Twitter account on Sunday. “All my feelings of solidarity are with Ekrem Dumanlı and others who are victimized by injustice. This is a reckless path to dictatorship,” he wrote in a tweet.

Çandar also said the operation is nothing but an attack on freedom of the press under the cover of an operation against the faith-based Hizmet movement.

The AK Party government and its former leader Erdoğan launched a battle against the movement last year following a graft probe that was revealed to the public on Dec. 17. They accuse Hizmet of plotting to topple the government. Hizmet strongly denies the charges. Zaman is affiliated with the Hizmet movement.

Another experienced journalist, Can Dündar, who now works for the Cumhuriyet daily, also sharply criticized Sunday's operation, which he said was retaliation for last year's Dec. 17 operation.

He said it is important not to let people forget the Dec. 17 graft investigation.

Dündar also said very soon the government will suffer because of the policy of intimidation it follows

“When you speed up, it means you will hit the wall more strongly. I think this is a crazy situation," said Dündar, adding that if journalists do not show solidarity in the wake of government pressure, then it will mean they deserve persecution.

Messages of solidarity with Zaman were also sent by other journalists on their Twitter accounts.

Journalist Cüneyt Özdemir wrote, “The most dangerous job in the world: journalism in Turkey.”

Anchorman Fatih Portakal wrote: “One day, every individual and every journalist may be subjected to such arbitrary operations. Why? Because there is a lack of tolerance and efforts to cover up certain things.”

Journalist and writer Mustafa Akyol wrote: “People who follow the developments in the world via conspiracy theories [nearly all Turks] will inevitably engage in tyranny. It is sufficient for them to grab power.”

Turkish-Armenian journalist Hayko Bağdat wrote: “To make the start of the operation with Dumanlı is a sign that worse days will come. Erdoğan has given a start to a very big chaos.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 15 December 2014, Monday