December 16, 2014

Zaman hits headlines, newspapers show range of influence

The detainment of Zaman's editor-in-chief made headlines in every Turkish daily newspaper on Monday, with reactions exhibiting the ranging influence of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) handle on the media.

“Hitler, too, started like this” headlined the critical Taraf daily, comparing the crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Zaman and Samanyolu, two Hizmet movement-affiliated media groups, to the origins of Hitler's rise to power with the Nazi Party. Taraf devoted a two-page spread to coverage of the police operations on the media, and published the reactions of Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu. These politicians reacted by grieving the state of Turkey, and underlining that remaining silent would only encourage fascism and the oppression of the media.

On the other side of the coin, the pro-government Akşam daily's headline read “Number one suspect: [Fethullah] Gülen,” and continued by explaining that the “parallel organization” has targeted the sovereignty of the country. President Erdoğan has been using rhetoric claiming tirelessly that the Hizmet movement is a parallel structure that is attempting to stage a coup d'état. Their front page also highlighted that the events on Sunday were the first operations against the “parallel” organization's media.

The headlines of the Akşam daily also condemned Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was taken into custody from the Zaman daily's headquarters by police. Akşam said Dumanlı made a “show” out of the ordeal by refusing to be taken into custody with the initial warrant brought by the police. However, Akşam neglected to mention on its front page that Dumanlı, along with other Zaman journalists, traveled to the İstanbul Courthouse on Friday to inquire whether an investigation against them was under way, following claims by a Twitter user under the pseudonym Fuat Avni that around 150 journalists would be detained as part of a new government-backed operation. Following an initially unsuccessful police raid, Dumanlı said police officers had asked for him to come down from his office so they could detain him, which he viewed as "nonsense." He explained to media sources, "I am sitting in my office, and I have invited the police to come and detain me.” Additionally, Dumanlı also said: "Let those who have committed a crime be scared. We are not scared." The pro-government Akşam also focused on the fact that Israel's Haaretz daily newspaper was the first to publish coverage of the raid on the “parallel organization,” which Akşam interpreted as a sign of support. Erdoğan has criticized Gülen on countless occasions by claiming his Hizmet movement has alleged ties with Israel.

Yeni Şafak, another pro-government daily, linked the police raids on Sunday with police raids carried out in 2009 against an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group called Tahşiyeciler. It argued that the chairman of Samanyolu TV, Hidayet Karaca, was accused of “organized criminal activity.”

“The palace owners now attack their partner” was the headline of the BirGün daily newspaper, which is often critical of the government and its efforts on the environment and laborers. Its headline is a reference to the new presidential palace, built at a cost of TL 1.37 billion by the ruling AK Party. Its front page also references the former alliance between the AK Party and the Hizmet movement led by Islamic cleric Gülen.

The Kemalist, secularist Cumhuriyet daily made their headline “Raid for Silence.” They explained that with the upcoming anniversary of the large-scale government corruption scandal that was made public on Dec. 17, 2013, media have come under attack. Hizmet-affiliated media have strongly criticized alleged corruption amongst current AK Party rulers.

While there are several newspapers that show their clear allegiance to the government, and others that show their disdain for it, there are also a handful of publications that have been rumored to be under pressure from the ruling AK Party, including the Hürriyet, Milliyet and Vatan dailies.

Following the raids, Hürriyet, one of Turkey's top-selling newspapers, published a lackluster image of Dumanlı -- casting a confused light on the recounting of the raids. It carried the headline, “First making headlines, then into custody,” withholding critique about the actions of any parties involved. While many international journalists and the independent press criticized the attack on freedom of the media, Hürriyet refrained from publishing controversial commentary.

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