December 14, 2014

News sacred, commentary free

Bülent Keneş

I penned this article after hearing a strong rumor that the police would raid my home and take me into custody early on Sunday morning... I would like you to know who Bülent Keneş really is!

I have been a journalist for the last 25 years, including three years of novice journalism. For at least 19 years I have worked as an editor and executive at various levels, including editor-in-chief positions at two different newspapers for nine years. All my life I have striven to engage in my profession, not as a hobby or for fun, but to promote human values, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms professionally and with loyalty to and belief in the principles of journalism.

During my time in the foreign news bureau (1995-1998) and the news bureau (1999) at the Zaman newspaper, the news coordinator's office at the Doğan Media Group's English-language daily the Turkish Daily News (2000-2004), the New York office of the Anadolu news agency (2004-2006), as the editor-in-chief of the Bugün newspaper (2006) and the editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman (since its establishment in 2007), I have always tried to be a reliable channel for the people at home and around the world to have access to accurate news and information. During my professional career, I have never conjured up false, fake or distorted news stories, and I have never encouraged my colleagues to resort to such ways. I have carefully refrained from working with those who are able to stoop to such immoral ways.

As I was picking editorial staff and columnists for the media outlets I worked at, including Today's Zaman, I took extra care in choosing people from diverse ideological camps, with diverging lifestyles and beliefs.

In my professional career I have adhered to the universal principles of journalism. I have never been inclined to accept orders or instructions that might undermine the honor and reputation of journalism from any group or individual, including my bosses. I have never given in to threats or indoctrination. I have always foiled efforts to this end, including attempts from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the circles close to it.

I have tried to engage in my profession in the best way possible and within the bounds of possibility at all of the media outlets I worked to ensure that people have access to accurate news and information and diverse commentary. I have worked hard to promote universally accepted standards for human rights and freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and a state of law. In connection with these efforts, I faced reactions and pressures from leading figures and institutions of the military tutelage until very recently. Oddly enough, having grown stronger in the fight against anti-democratic forces, the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan-led political movement is currently implementing a form of despotism the military tutelage never dared to undertake.

I must note with regret that this Erdoğan-led movement -- whose reforms to promote democracy, rights and freedoms, accountability and transparency we have supported and whose deviant moves we have shunned since 2002 -- has been gradually heading towards a terrible despotism since 2011.

This deterioration has created a big disappointment in liberal circles that have been longing for a true democracy and effective rule of law. This was accelerated with the corruption scandal that became public with the graft and bribery investigations of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013. Following the emergence of strong evidence about corruption and bribery that incriminated certain ministers, bureaucrats and their close circles, the Erdoğan administration started to show hostility towards anything that would force them to be held accountable in court. Now it has come to the phase of silencing free media with vulgar methods.

It is clear that the people who are detained will not be the first or the last victims of Erdoğan's unbridled and unlawful despotism. I hope this attack against a handful of free and independent media outlets in Turkey will not lead to consequences similar to the institutionalization of Nazi fascism following the purge, the "Night of the Long Knives," that occurred on the night of June 30, 1934.

Regardless of the ultimate goal of Erdoğan's despotism, the free media will not and cannot be silenced. Our free and bold colleagues who see people's right to have access to news and information will continue to foil this unlawful purge that seeks to manipulate public perceptions and cover up corruption. This unethical and dirty operation to twist public perceptions will not be enough to cover up the quagmire of corruption, bribery and theft in which Erdoğan's despotism is wallowing. History will properly record cruel despots versus bold and democratic journalists.

Hoping to wake up to a Turkey without despots or despotism...

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