December 22, 2014

Destici: Silencing free media means silencing opposition

Grand Unity Party (BBP) leader Mustafa Destici highlighted the threat opposition parties face when freedom of the press is silenced, during his visit to Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı on Sunday.

In a show of support for the free press, Destici arrived at the headquarters of the Zaman daily in İstanbul's Yenibosna neighborhood on Sunday morning. Destici was welcomed by Zaman daily executives and visited Dumanlı in his office. Dumanlı was released pending trial on Friday following his detention on terrorism charges in a Dec. 14 crackdown on media seen as critical of the government.

Following the meeting between the two, Destici spoke to Zaman reporters, saying: “We have always stood by what we believe is right. We did not see any legal grounds for the Dec. 14 operations and detentions of those from the Zaman daily, the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, some scriptwriters, actors and police officers. The government's move to silence the free media is tantamount to gagging opposition parties.”

According to Destici, the international community clearly saw that the operation was not legal and was a politically motivated move to suppress and intimidate the free media. Destici said he is happy that Dumanlı was released but views the arrest of Samanyolu head Hidayet Karaca as part of a crackdown on the media. Destici called on the government to stop interfering with the judiciary and end the pressure on the media.

Dumanlı was detained on Dec. 14 in a police raid on the Zaman daily headquarters, along with some 30 others in other locations, and was released pending trial on Friday. The court decided to arrest Karaca. Both are accused of "running a terrorist organization," based on no evidence but news reports, columns and a fictional television series. The operation took place as part of a government-orchestrated investigation seemingly targeting dissenters.

Politicians condemn operations

“Look and think; the Constitution is supposed to direct the actions of the president, but he himself stated that he was the one that ordered the operation. What did he [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] say? He said: ‘You will see, we will conduct an operation. We will enter their lairs and take them all.' Are you a judge? Are you a prosecutor? With what power does a politician order an operation?” commented Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş during a dinner held by the Alevi Cultural Association on Saturday.

“How can we be at ease when the judiciary is so connected to the government -- so much so that the government directs an operation and the proceedings? Whoever must be judged should be judged, but judgments done on the instructions of the government will have nothing to do with justice,” Demirtaş continued. He also remarked: “This even says that the judiciary received instructions from politicians. Therefore, this operation has really been directed by politics that have in some way put pressure on the judicial process and this is unacceptable; it doesn't matter who it's being done to.”

The co-chair explained that the Dec. 14 operation was not just an act against free media but also a plot for revenge because of coverage of the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption scandals of last year. “Furthermore, those who were detained during the Dec. 14 operation, meaning Cemaat [Hizmet affiliated] press, have experienced a battle due to the corruption and bribery operation. Therefore, these events turned into a revenge operation for the corruption and thievery that was exposed on Dec. 17 [2013], showing how serious and real these allegations are. No one has been held accountable for these [claims] yet.”

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Ahmet Davutoğlu defended the operations against the media, saying: “Whatever happens, we will not permit a parallel bureaucratic state to be created. Only the national will and strength will direct this democracy.”

The Hizmet movement, inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, has been accused of forming a parallel state with the goal of toppling the AK Party government. The movement firmly denies the charges.

Felicity Party (SP) leader Mustafa Kamalak also made a statement concerning the attacks on the Hizmet movement by the ruling AK Party, saying: “I find the Dec. 14 media operations unjust. I do not approve of it, I don't find it right. I do not believe that Fethullah Hoca [scholar] has intentions of toppling the government or that he is the leader of a terrorist organization.”

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 December 2014, Sunday