December 15, 2014

Shameful operation on media

Günal Kurşun

A group of police officials from the İstanbul police anti-terrorism unit arrived at the Zaman daily building on Sunday morning. They tried to enter the building while Zaman supporters protested, chanting slogans like "Free media cannot be silenced." The Zaman daily broadcast the entire drama live, while much of the rest of the Turkish media preferred to ignore the police operation.

Freedom of expression is a political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas using one's body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. It includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. Freedom of expression is guaranteed in Turkey's 1982 Constitution in Article 26, and in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in Article 10. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) defined the concept of freedom of expression and put the principles into practice many years ago. Handyside v. United Kingdom was a case decided by the ECtHR in 1976. Its conclusion contains the famous phrase, "Freedom of applicable not only to 'information' or 'ideas' that are favorably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”

The government first targeted the Hizmet movement and its media corporation just because it has the greatest affect on Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters. Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı was detained first, and it is being said in the media that a list of 150 other journalists are to be detained shortly after Dumanlı. This is a real shame and a confession of the abandonment of democracy and the rule of law. We last saw this theater on Feb. 28, 1997, after the National Security Council (MGK) meeting and the postmodern military coup, but this time it is worse.

A Twitter user known by the username Fuat Avni has revealed many government-backed police operations to the public. He claimed on Saturday that another major government-backed police operation targeting many journalists would begin on Sunday. The whistleblower tweeted that due to strong reactions to the initial operation planned to be carried out on Friday, the police limited the list of journalists to be detained. He said liberal and main stream journalists will not be targeted “for now.” All of what Avni has said has come true so far. Therefore, I expect more people to be detained in the near future.

There are also funny detentions being suggested at the same time. I saw the names of the director and scriptwriter of the TV series of “Tek Türkiye” (One Turkey), which is broadcast on Samanyolu TV, among those to be detained. Later, I learned that the graphic designer's name is also on the list, which is like a joke. We are now living through a coup to our democracy, law and human rights. The aim is to impede the opposition by putting pressure on media freedom. This is a clear threat, at the same time, to those who are willing to stay with the opposition.

Myanmarese politician and activist Aung San Suu Kyi said, “Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it.” All tyrannies have been destroyed up until now and many more will be destroyed.

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