October 29, 2015


Günal Kurşun

The government seized Koza İpek Holding and appointed partisan trustees to take over the management of its companies last Monday.

The police entered the İpek Media Group's headquarters in İstanbul on Wednesday and took the Kanaltürk TV and radio stations off air as well as the Bugün TV station. On Wednesday, the government backed trustees halted the publication of print editions of two dailies (Bugün and Millet) included in the holding's media group.

When the Russian government seized Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Yukos Group, they thought that there would be no repercussions. This was not the case. Khodorkovsky was a former Russian communist youth leader who later became an oligarch and billionaire. Between 1996 and 2003, Yukos became one of the biggest and most successful Russian companies, producing 20 percent of Russia's oil output. When Khodorkovsky became an advocate of democratization, international co-operation and Russian reform, he was arrested in October 2003, by then the richest man in Russia and the 16th richest man in the world. All his belongings were confiscated or “nationalized”. After the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague came to a decision over the matter, Russia was in the position to pay at least $65 billion.

The main purpose behind the İpek Media Group operation is simple. The majority of Turkey's Islamic population follows their media output. As a pro-Islamic political movement, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) can see that both İpek and Zaman Media Groups have a chance of affecting their voting base. Their criticisms which cite Islamic references are more effective than criticisms from Doğan Media Group and other leftist media. This situation has ignited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's attitude towards İpek, and now the AKP is behaving as though it has lost its mind. Only a few days before the general election, it backed a decision to confiscate the opposition media, going against the rule of law, freedom of expression and judicial independence. This does not mean that other opposition media is untouchable, as some people from within the AKP suggest, Doğan Media group will be in the second phase of attacks.

What we see in happening in Turkey today is an unwise way of building a tyranny. If Machiavelli could see the current situation, he would say that it is a very rough and vulgar way to build a tyranny. An Anatolian expression says, “May your cruelty increase so that your end will come sooner.” There is a correlation between one's cruelty and one's fate. Like in the Yukos v. Russia decision of the ECtHR, all those responsible for this arbitrary seizure will be found accountable and in the position of having to paying compensation.

I believe that the sun shines after even the darkest night. Following the night of the Nov. 1 election, I sincerely believe that we will wake up to a brighter sky. If you are able to see what is happening in Turkey by means of free media, freedom of expression, democracy, human rights and rule of law, you have to respond. We need a free and strong media more than ever.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday