The witch-hunt reaches Turkey’s media

Mahir Zeynalov
Mahir Zeynalov


Date posted: December 17, 2014

“If this is a witch-hunt, yes, we will carry out this witch-hunt,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a few months ago to confront criticism that his government has gone too far in removing police officers and prosecutors who carried out a corruption investigation against his ministers and son.

That witch-hunt has now set foot into the realm of the outspoken media,prompting a world-wide scolding. Perhaps it will intensify until the Turkish authorities completely seize power ahead of next year’s key parliamentary elections. The outcome of that election could allow Erdogan to shift the nation’s parliamentary system into a presidential one, granting the country’s divisive president with extensive powers.

Busting a newspaper

Standing bold and defiant, most of the staff of Zaman and Today’s Zaman spend nights at its headquarters, tweeting their photos to their followers. More than a dozen Turkish journalists were arrested on Sunday, including the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s best-selling daily, Ekrem Dumanli. Police officers stormed his office and took him into custody, live on TV. Alarmingly, Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu endorsed the move. Erdogan scorned the arrested journalists on Monday: “They thought they would be immune to arrest within their newspapers.” A pro-government newspaper, Star published this headline: “[Erdogan] Entered Their Lairs.”

“The media is a barometer for democracy in any country”

Mahir Zeynalov

Police raided the country’s largest newspaper and its editor was taken live on TV – glowing evidence of how far the government could go in crushing dissent with almost sheer impunity.

A lack of support within Turkey presents another set of challenges for those in danger and shows how the public is influenced by TV networks that are owned by Erdogan’s son-in-law.

The raid on the newspaper prompted reactions from all around the world. The White House expressed concerns while the European Union condemned the assault on journalists as “unacceptable.” International press advocacy bodies as well as rights groups denounced the arrest of journalists and called on the Turkish government to ensure that investigations are conducted in a swift and consistent way.

“We have no concern about what the EU might say. Whether the EU accepts us as members or not, we have no such concern. Please keep your wisdom to yourself,” Erdogan responded to the EU on Monday. Why would Erdogan be troubled over what the EU or the U.S. say about the way he rules the country? Neither EU nor the U.S. has any effective or substantial leverage with which to punish Erdogan when he acts in ways that many see as unacceptable. He has successfully demonstrated that his moves go unpunished, no matter what allegations are thrown against him.

Not a power struggle

Some news outlets in the West have characterized the recent developments in Turkey as a “power struggle.” They assumed that sympathizers of the Gülen movement are very powerful within the judiciary and police and that Erdogan is wrestling to take control of parts of the state that are controled by Gülen. If that is true, why could the Gülen movement not help halt a full-fledged blitz of the authorities on the Gülen movement from its schools and dorms. Another case in point: In judicial elections in October, a pro-government bloc won an overwhelming majority in the top judicial body –  a clear example that sympathizers of the Gülen movement within the judiciary have little clout, if any.

Because the government subdues anyone who sides with the Gülen movement, a deafening silence accompanied the crackdown. And as the world has viewed the process as a “power struggle,” no one abroad wanted to “take part” in this “power struggle.” But as the clampdown hit the media close to the Gülen movement, the international community suddenly stood up to say “stop” to Ankara. Sunday’s raid, for the first time, demonstrated to the world that Erdogan’s crackdown has the signs of a witch-hunt that takes its toll on millions who promote democratic values, cherish freedoms and want to live in a society that put its leaders accountable during wrongdoings.

The Gülen movement is not without sin, in my view. No one is perfect. But being at odds with Erdogan could not justify a ruthless crackdown on his movement.

The media is a barometer for democracy in any country. Turkey was already infamous for its intolerance to journalists, but raiding a newspaper is a new step for a country that had once been touted as a model for other Arabs, but now represents one of the failed cases of a Muslim democracy.


Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today’s Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Source: Al Arabiya , December 16, 2014


Related News

Gülen’s lawyer: Systemic, illegal wiretaps taking place in Turkey over last six months

After “lies” and “defamatory statements” about Gülen surfaced in the media once new recordings were leaked on the Internet, lawyer Nurullah Albayrak said in a written statement that Gülen’s phone calls had been illegally wiretapped.

Will the military take up arms against Gülen supporters?

In modern states, again, elected governments will be the final authority to decide about external threat perceptions after compiling input from related institutions, including the military.

Turkish PM Erdoğan’s imagined enemies

Turkey is no longer the old Turkey. The affluent middle class, the young population and stronger civil society organizations, strengthened by the digital revolution with such tools as social media and Internet portals, will resist any attempts to turn the clock backwards on the development of Turkish democracy. People will simply ask why Prime Minister Erdoğan is not going after his people who have been sleeping with the enemy next door if he is really sincere in addressing external threats to this great nation.

You cannot fool all the people all the time

In a panic to save its future, the Erdoğan government calling it a “parallel state,” an “illegal organization,” a “criminal gang,” a “web of treason” and “raving Hashashins” is attempting to collectively punish the Hizmet movement, whose establishments have significantly contributed to the betterment of the country in the fields of education, business, democratization, social solidarity and international relations.

Turbulent times [in Turkey due to corruption probe]

The arrest of several people close to the government, including three ministers’ sons, accused of taking significant bribes, has shaken the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to the core and plunged Turkey into political uncertainty. Whether it is the case or not — the Gülen movement denies it — the timing of the arrests has created the widespread perception that the investigation is linked to the growing tension between the AKP and the Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet.

Police insult former Zaman columnist for not supporting Erdoğan

Speaking with the Cumhuriyet daily about his last visit to journalists in Silivri Prison in İstanbul, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu said that journalists, including Bulaç, were insulted by police officers during their questioning.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Horrific Torture Details Emerge In Turkey’s Capital, A Lawyer Reveals

Turkey’s looming prison massacre grows nearer

Turkey deports former EU official for alleged Gulen-ties

Gülen Movement has been used to undermine Ergenekon trial

The Turkish invasion of Nigeria

AK Party government removing critical voices from state bodies

Lies in the “Research” by Der Spiegel

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News