November 9, 2015

Ex-ECtHR judge: Turkey to face heavy penalties from ECtHR over takeover of İpek Media

Rıza Türmen, a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), has said Turkey will have to pay large amounts of compensation imposed by the ECtHR over the appointment of pro-government trustees to Koza İpek Holding and its affiliated companies following a controversial court decision, defining the act as “barbarity.”

Police raided the headquarters of a number of media outlets on Oct. 28 after the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace ruled on Oct. 26 for the takeover of the administration of Koza İpek Holding's companies, which includes critical media outlets in the İpek Media Group, in a government-backed move. The trustees then took over management of the Bugün and Millet dailies, as well as Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, following the police intervention, during which many journalists and protesters were subjected to excessive police force.

Calling the takeover of the trustees unlawful, Türmen, speaking to the Özgür Bugün daily said Turkey has undergone dark periods before, but the country has never before encountered such an “act of barbarism.”

The Bugün and Millet dailies published their first editions after the trustees' takeover on Friday. Both papers contained propaganda-filled reports on the Justice and Development (AK Party) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while there were almost no reports on the opposition parties. The newspapers have been turned into mouthpieces for the AK Party and Erdoğan under the management of the trustees. More than 70 journalists have been fired from those dailies by the trustees.

Türmen said the dismissal of the journalists cannot be accepted, highlighting that it is certain that those fired journalists will win if they file cases with the ECtHR. Noting that the ECtHR is very sensitive regarding press freedom, Türmen said that the ECtHR will never accept any restrictions imposed on free media.

He added that the victimized people should first exhaust all domestic remedies, and then apply to the ECtHR. “If they cannot get any positive results, they should then make take their case to the Constitutional Court. If they still cannot get any results, they should apply to the ECtHR,” Türmen said. “The decision to appoint trustees, which totally undermines freedom of the press, cannot exist in democratic countries,” Türmen stated.

‘Presidential system not the aim, but dictatorship'

Also commenting over the possible introduction of an executive presidential system that President Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party want to establish in Turkey, Türmen said the intention is not to establish a presidential system but a dictatorship.

“In the presidential system that the AK Party wants to adopt, the president is given the authority to abolish Parliament. Actually, what they want to bring about is not a presidential system, but a dictatorship,” Türmen said.

Türmen further stated that there is no separation of powers in the presidential system proposal of the AK Party, adding: “The president will have the authority to rule the country via decrees. The president will appoint senior judges and bureaucrats. This system will have nothing in common with the presidential system in the US.” He also warned that the consequences of such an act will be serious, causing the deepening of the current polarization in society.

Erdoğan supports the formation of a “Turkish-style” presidential system that he claims will help the country's development by eliminating "multi-headedness" in state governance and thus pave the way for a more effective decision-making system. His ambitions were disrupted after the AK Party lost its majority in the parliamentary elections held on June 7. However, his ambitions were renewed after the AK Party regained its parliamentary majority in the snap election held on Nov. 1.

After the AK Party won an unexpected landslide in the general election, the issue of a transition to a presidential system is being touted by government officials once again amid rumors that Erdoğan is looking to pressure the ruling party to opt for a switch.

Turkey may hold a referendum on a new constitution to create an executive presidential system and discussions on the issue will accelerate in the period ahead, Erdoğan's spokesman said during a press conference on Nov. 4.

On Nov. 3, AK Party Deputy Chairman Yalçın Akdoğan also said they see the presidential system as important as the debate for a new constitution, underlining that the issue of a switch from a parliamentary system to an executive-style presidency “is one of the issues we [the AK Party] cannot renounce.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 November 2015, Monday