September 17, 2015

Threatening media and future of Turkey

Cafer Solgun

In democratic countries, the media performs its roles freely. There are diverse media outlets with different ideological orientations as well. The diversity of media and the free performance of their roles and duties is one of the major characteristics of democracy and preservation of freedoms in a country. The reason I emphasize this basic fact is, namely, the grave situation in our country that is raising concern. Another fact that everybody is aware of is this: In democratic countries, the media focus on the government first.

The press has an obligation to criticize and caution the rulers. For this reason, the media serves as a check on the state and the government in the name of the people.

In Turkey, media that do not praise the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are referred to as the opposition. However, this is a false expression because by the very nature and definition, media have to dissent. Is it possible to claim affiliation with or to be in support of democracy if the media have become an apparatus of the government?

In order to better understand the mentality of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who continues to act as if he is the leader of the AKP after being elected president, and his close aides towards democracy, it is sufficient to look at their attitudes towards the media.

It is common knowledge that Erdoğan and his aides do not like the opposition media. Of course, prominent leaders are not expected to always support media outlets; however, only a few of them aim to destroy the opposition media.

Any political leader who does not internalize democracy wants the media to praise their preferences. Only a few of these leaders, however, tend to destroy the opposition media. Erdoğan and the AKP fall into this category. Any political leader who only wants the media to praise their preferences does not embody democracy or aim to preserve it.

This is what is dangerous for Turkey. In other words, our problem is not that Erdoğan and the AKP do not like opposition media; the problem is that they want to destroy it. Some people in the pro-government media openly threaten media groups that are not controlled by the AKP. The threats have now evolved into death threats. For instance, Ahmet Hakan, one of the columnists at the Hürriyet daily, receives death threats. Columnists in pro-government papers make these threats.

There have always been such intimidation tactics utilized in the past, but now the judiciary is being used for this purpose. The judiciary aligns itself with the wishes of the palace and the AKP. There is now an ongoing legal investigation into terrorism charges against the Doğan Media Group, the largest in Turkey. And the raid on the Koza İpek Group, based solely on ungrounded accusations, was a method of intimidation used against the media and the people. Raids of the Nokta newsweekly and the commencement of legal action taken against the magazine on terrorism charges are just further examples. A number of journalists have spent hours in courtrooms because of legal cases filed against them.

It should be emphasized that those who voice criticism against the palace and the AKP are subject to accusations and outrageous charges of terrorism. This alone is a major threat to the integrity of democracy. Is it possible to see a president label a magazine as dishonorable and despicable in a democratic nation? Erdoğan is doing just that. This is a steady decline which started with the arrest of Hidayet Karaca, an executive of a leading media group. Things will get worse if we do not take action to prevent this.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 September 2015, Thursday