September 2, 2015

Opposition slams raids on businesses, media outlets; EU minister worried

CHP forms commission to monitor crackdown on media

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has formed a commission consisting of deputies with a background in journalism to monitor government crackdowns on members of the media that have been critical of the government.

The move comes after police launched an early morning operation on Tuesday targeting the media outlets, offices, residences and a university belonging to Koza İpek Holding.

Commission members Eskişehir deputy Utku Çakırözer and İstanbul deputies Enis Berberoğlu, Eren Erdem and Barış Yarkadaş visited the İpek Media Group headquarters in İstanbul on Tuesday to show their support after the raids.

The CHP deputies also visited the Sözcü and Cumhuriyet dailies on Tuesday, and will visit the Zaman and Taraf dailies on Wednesday, as these dailies are also allegedly to be targeted by government-orchestrated police raids in the coming days.

A government whistleblower who tweets under the pseudonym Fuat Avni, and who has a long and credible track record of predicting political developments, claimed on Aug. 27 that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had given orders for large-scale raids on media outlets that have had a critical stance, including the Koza İpek and Doğan media groups and the Zaman, Taraf, Cumhuriyet and Sözcü dailies, ahead of the parliamentary election in November as a result of a failure to establish the coalition government mandated by the results of the June 7 general election.

The CHP commission will study the effects of crackdowns on the editorial policies of the media outlets as well as the financial effects. The CHP deputies will be talking to the editors-in-chief at the dailies and will then inform the public about the results in a press conference to be held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at the Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) headquarters in İstanbul.

Opposition slams raids on Koza İpek Holding businesses, media outlets

Members of the opposition parties have condemned the various police raids on the properties of Koza İpek Holding on Tuesday.

Responding to the raids, main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated on Tuesday that there can be no trace of democracy in a country when its media is silenced. “Don't disgrace [Turkey] in the eyes of the world,” he added.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also slammed the raids on Koza İpek Holding, predicting that the current course of events will not end well for the country. “For a long time, we have witnessed crackdowns and pressure on media that is critical of the government. This is but one bad example,” Bahçeli said.

CHP İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal lamented in an interview with Bugün TV that though terrorism and violence is sweeping the country, raids ordered by Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) target outlets with no evidence of wrongdoing. Emphasizing that the operations are politically motivated, Tanal claimed the raids are being carried out with the intention of increasing AK Party votes in the early election on Nov. 1.

Tanal called on all deputies of opposition parties and on the general public to unite against the unlawful operations without being influenced by differing ideologies or religious beliefs, as the next raids might be carried out against media outlets that share their views. Tanal also stressed that the raids may affect groups critical of the government in other sectors if opposition to them is not sufficiently strong.

EU Minister Konca: Worried about image of non-democratic Turkey

Before leaving the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) headquarters for a Cabinet meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, interim EU Affairs Minister Ali Haydar Konca told the press that he is worried about Turkey's image. “The police raids on media organizations and the government crackdown on critical media give the world concerns about whether or not Turkey is a democratic country,” Konca said. He added that he will voice his objection to the police raids on media outlets if he gets an opportunity during the Cabinet meeting.

According to CHP Manisa deputy Şahin Mengü, there cannot be any faith in secure elections if the AK Party attempts to silence critical media. Mengü, a former journalist, claimed that supporting media that is critical of the government is everyone's democratic duty, and must be fulfilled without considering ideological differences, urging everyone to unite in support of Koza İpek Holding.

Calling to mind the blank columns of the Sözcü daily on Tuesday, printed as a form of protest, Mengü stated that the situation is reminiscent of reactions to critical media ahead of the 1960 coup, adding: “I hope no such undemocratic action will take place. However, if [the AK Party and Erdoğan] continue to crack down on media and apply pressure to opposing voices, some forces may take to the streets.”

Fuat Avni predicted that the seizure of critical media outlets would be implemented step by step. The first target, according to the whistleblower, would be outlets inspired by the faith-based Gülen or Hizmet movement, against which Erdoğan launched a smear campaign in late 2013, following the eruption of a corruption scandal in which his inner circle was implicated.

Koza İpek Holding's İpek Media Group, which owns the Bugün and Millet newspapers and the Bugün and Kanaltürk TV stations, is also considered by many to be close to the Gülen movement. Outspoken newspapers Sözcü and Taraf, which do not avoid criticizing Erdoğan and the AK Party, as well as media outlets from the Doğan Media Group are also among those to be seized, according to Fuat Avni.

In December of last year, Fuat Avni also accurately warned of preparations for a government-backed operation against critical media outlets. Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Samanyolu Broadcasting Group top executive Hidayet Karaca and dozens of others were detained in an operation on Dec. 14, 2014. While Dumanlı was released several days later, Karaca is still imprisoned, though an indictment has yet to be prepared.

Next gov't-orchestrated raids will target Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Taraf

İstanbul CHP deputy Yarkadaş stated in an interview after Tuesday's raids that Sözcü, Cumhuriyet and Taraf, all dailies critical of the government, are next to be targeted by police operations.

Yarkadaş claimed that Erdoğan and the AK Party want all critical media to become pro-government outlets that never criticize its illicit activities. “They want to prevent even a single critical voice,” he said. Yarkadaş also invited interim Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to explain Fuat Avni's allegations.

The CHP headquarters has announced that a contingent of deputies will visit Koza İpek media offices in Ankara and İstanbul. According to CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman and Manisa deputy Özgür Özel, Erdoğan and the AK Party planned these operations after they lost the ability to form a single-party government in the June 7 election. He said the AK Party aimed to link media outlets critical of the government with terrorist organizations in order to boost government support. “This tactic was attempted by Gen. Kenan Evren, but our society has always reacted against anyone who pressures it to support the political views of those in power. This tactic has failed in the past, and the AK Party will also soon fail,” he added.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 September 2015, Tuesday