November 2, 2015

As pressure mounts, walls between different social segments eliminated

Abdülhamit Bilici

Regardless of the election outcome, the main concern should be democracy and justice for all and addressing our flaws in this matter.

We have not done much to fulfill these goals. Religious people, minorities, Kurds, Alevis and left-wingers have felt alienated. However, regardless of our beliefs, worldview or ethnic orientation, the standards we would like to achieve for our kids are the same: an efficient judicial system which will work without discriminating against the weak, an education system that will offer a civilized lifestyle, a democracy that will guarantee equalities. If this is so simple, why have we not done it in eight decades? One of the chief reasons for our failures is our failure to become a united society; we live in our own circles in the same cities.

On Oct. 28, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) administration raided two opposition TV channels and silenced two daily papers; this has become a dark page in the history of our democracy. A huge disaster that did not even take place during military coups was experienced. A “civilian” administration ignored the Constitution, universal legal principles and the international conventions that Turkey is party to and, by relying on force and coercion, silenced a media group through the ruling of one judge. There is no need to even take a look at the details, including a constitutional provision specifying that media outlets cannot be confiscated, the partisanship of the trustees appointed to control the media group and the expert report written by a person who turned out to be a former convict. This is a situation that is in fact legally null and void.

I had firsthand experience of what happened in a very small room where the employees of the paper and the TV station were trying to keep the broadcast up and running with 3G devices. This was a horrible moment for the image of our country and democracy; I congratulated my colleagues, Bugün TV Editor-in-Chief Tarık Toros, Bugün daily Editor-in-Chief Erhan Başyurt and others who remained decisive and noble in the control room for their resilience. In addition to the brave resistance by reporters Kamil Maman and Cihan Acar, a number of journalists, politicians and intellectuals from diverse backgrounds expressed solidarity, trying to ensure that one of the strongholds of free media was not seized; I took this as a beacon of hope in a state of darkness.

People from diverse backgrounds came together for the first time very strongly to defend democracy. This is pretty important for our future and the future of our children. People who were never able to come together in the face of anti-democratic policies expressed solidarity for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and media freedom. During the fight for democracy, I was there to express my support for the İpek Media Group. I took a look at the people there; they would not possibly come together in another environment: Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) İstanbul candidate Mehmet Sağlam, Media Council Chair Pınar Türenç, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) İstanbul deputy Garo Paylan, Tarık Toros, AK Party founding member Nevzat Yalçıntaş, renowned politician Hüsamettin Cindoruk and a Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy. CHP deputies Mahmut Tanal, Eren Erdem and Barış Yarkadaş have been on the democracy-watch at the İpek Media building since the illegal raid. Political party leaders paid visits to Bugün TV to show support. This colorful image pointed to a historic moment, indicating that people from different backgrounds can come together for democracy and express solidarity for the rights of others.

My greatest concern is the deteriorating image of Turkey in the world. The editors-in-chief of 50 of the most respected publications in the world sent a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and told him that they were horrified by the raid and seizure. Our country, which had been referred to as a model in the field of democracy up until recently, now fails to meet the main requirements. However, the persecution brought different segments of society together. Believe me, our unity and solidarity, regardless of the election results and despotic practices, will make sure that the strongholds of democracy will be protected.

Published on Today's Zaman, 2 November 2015, Monday