December 15, 2014

Local media condemns police raid on media, detention of journalists

Speaking with a single voice, many press organizations in Turkey condemned the police raids of the Zaman daily and Samanyolu TV and the detention of at least 23 people, including journalists, on Sunday.

Anti-terrorism units raided the headquarters of the country's largest-circulating newspaper, Zaman, on Sunday and detained its Editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı amid protests by newspaper staff and demonstrators.

The chairman of Samanyolu TV, Hidayet Karaca, was also detained after he turned himself into the police. As part of the investigation, the producer of Samanyolu's Tek Türkiye TV series, Ali Kara, and one of its actors were also detained in İstanbul.

Criticizing the authoritarian one-man regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development (AK Party) government, the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) said in a written statement on Sunday that those who do not obey the political power are gradually being depicted as criminals to be repressed. Using the police to raid TV stations and newspaper buildings cannot be seen in democratic states of law but is an instrument of tyrants to intimidate and silence journalists, the GYV stated.

According to the GYV, attacking TV stations, newspapers and even program scriptwriters and producers is the biggest menace to Turkish society. History has witnessed that repression, despotism and tyranny can never silence those who speak the truth, the statement said. The GYV in its statement also thanked political party leaders, NGOs, opinion leaders and the people of Turkey and around the world who support the free press and democracy.

The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) condemned the operations by releasing a statement titled “No to police state” on its website. The P24 statement noted that targeting journalists who shared the corruption and graft scandals of the government with the people is unacceptable.

In a joint press statement on the operations on Sunday, the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) and the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) strongly condemned the detentions of journalists and called it an intervention into people's freedom to obtain information. “Freedom of the press and speech cannot be punished,” the statement noted.

Reacting to the detention of at least 23 people in Sunday's nationwide operation, the joint statement said freedom of the press and speech are under greater pressure today in Turkey. According to the statement, more than 200 journalists have been imprisoned in Turkey, violating their right to a fair trial and even without knowing the main reason for their imprisonment. Classifying Turkey as being among those countries without press freedom, the statement added that there is no punishment for exercising freedom of the press and freedom of speech in democratic countries.

The TDC and the TGS called on the government and the opposition to do their duty to protect members of the press without considering their lives, detentions or unemployment. The recent police raids on media institutions and the detentions of journalists demonstrate how important it is for journalists to stand together keeping the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and mature democracies as the goal, the statement noted.

Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD) Chairman Ahmet Abakay said in Ankara on Sunday that the detentions in the media are a journalist hunt which is outlawed. Abakay said accusing these media of plotting a coup against the government is ridiculous as just a year ago it was the same media group who was working closely with the government.

ÇGD Mediterranean region branch head Bünyamin Tokmak said socialist, progressive and democrat journalists cannot turn a blind eye to the detentions. Condemning the detentions, Tokmak said it is the ÇYD's duty to protect the rights of these media workers detained on Sunday.

ÇYD Bursa head Yüksel Baysal called the raids and detentions a move by the government to divert people's attention away from the upcoming anniversary of the Dec. 17 operations.

Turkey woke up to a bribery and corruption operation on Dec. 17, 2013 in which simultaneous operations were launched in İstanbul and Ankara which resulted in the arrests of 49 people, including businessman Ali Ağaoğlu, Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, Halkbank General Director Süleyman Aslan, Fatih Municipality Mayor Mustafa Demir and the sons of the AK Party government's former Interior Minister Muammer Güler, former Economy Ministry Zafer Çağlayan and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar.

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