Ekrem Dumanli: Turkey’s witch hunt against the media

In this Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014 photo provided by the Presidential Press Service, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting at his new palace in Ankara, Turkey. (AP/AP)
In this Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014 photo provided by the Presidential Press Service, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting at his new palace in Ankara, Turkey. (AP/AP)


Date posted: January 3, 2015

EKREM DUMANLI

When I first appeared in court after last month’s raid on my newspaper in Istanbul and 80 hours of detention, I asked the judge: “Two columns and a news report: Is that all the evidence against me?” The judge replied, “Yes.” It surely was an “I rest my case” moment for me — as well as for the dismal state of Turkish democracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s leader for almost 12 years, Erdogan contributed to economic successes and democratic reforms during his first and second terms. However, emboldened by consecutive election victories and incompetent opposition parties, he is now leading Turkey toward one-man, one-party rule.

The two critical turning points came in 2013: his government’s harsh treatment of protesters in Gezi Park and the systematic obstruction of justice after a major corruption scandal. Since then, Erdogan has branded dissenters and critics as traitors who are part of a vast international conspiracy to topple him. Just last week, a 16-year-old was arrested for pointing out corruption. On Tuesday, two journalists critical of the government, Sedef Kabas and Mehmet Baransu, were detained over tweets. My newspaper, Zaman, and I are just the latest victims of Erdogan’s witch hunt.

In the eyes of the regime, the journalists, TV producers and screenwriters detained by the police on Dec. 14 are members of an “armed terrorist organization” threatening the sovereignty of the state. Don’t look for confiscated arms, attack plans or suicide bombers disguised as journalists. Our fault was to report on government actions that are undermining the foundations of a democratic Turkey.

The level of media subservience to the government in today’s Turkey is unprecedented. Most media are directly controlled, with government supervisors monitoring all editorial content. Anyone who strays is harassed or fired. But as members of the free press, or whatever is left of it in Turkey, we are simply doing our jobs. All it takes to be called a terrorist under Erdogan’s regime is speaking out against government corruption and abuses of power. Verbal attacks, smear campaigns by pro-government media and legal harassment soon follow.

Since the corruption scandal, a peaceful civil society movement called Hizmet, or service, focusing on democracy, education, interfaith dialogue and social welfare efforts has become the primary object of Erdogan’s obsession. In its mission and values, Hizmet is similar to the U.S. civil rights movement. Its supporters are ordinary citizens drawn from a cross-section of public or private institutions, but Erdogan equates their presence in the bureaucracy with a legal coup. The government has purged thousands of police, prosecutors and other public officials. Erdogan’s attack machine has also cracked down on Hizmet in the private sector, going after institutions and businesses affiliated with its supporters.

The latest round was last month’s targeting of Zaman and the Samanyolu television station, media institutions established by entrepreneurs who share the same democratic values as Hizmet supporters. Hidayet Karaca, chairman of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, was arrested. I was released but will still be tried on terrorism charges. A warrant was also reportedly issued for Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish thinker who was the inspiration behind Hizmet.

The police and judiciary are seizing upon new legislation at odds with the Turkish constitution and international norms. These laws have been enacted to allow authorities to prosecute or persecute whomever Erdogan wishes. It is no surprise that we were taken in just days after the approval of a law that allows the government to detain based only on “reasonable suspicion,” without concrete evidence.

Erdogan’s reckless behavior is hurting not only his legacy but also Turkey and its allies. Turkey’s image as a stable investment hub has been damaged. A politics of character assassination, polarization and suppression inevitably creates dangerous social stresses. An internally chaotic Turkey cannot be considered a reliable partner for the international community. Erdogan’s authoritarian steps move Turkey away from its long-held goal of joining the European Union.

Despite all this, I will never lose hope in Turkey. After all, this is not the first downward spiral that the nation has gone through. Having heard the domestic and international outcry after Zaman was raided, I feel even more optimistic. My wife and I have named our baby girl, who came into the world while I was in detention, Saadet, which means bliss and happiness. Saadet symbolizes our belief in the brighter future of Turkish democracy. The darkest hour of the night is just before dawn.

Source: Washington Post , January 1, 2014


Related News

University entrance exam results announced, top scorers from Gülen-affiliated schools

Turkey’s Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) on Thursday announced the results of the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS), revealing that students from Gülen-affiliated schools, which have been the target of a government-sponsored defamation campaign, are among the top scorers of the exam.

PM Erdoğan confesses to creating ‘super judges’ for anti-Hizmet plot

The PM Erdogan has been harshly criticized for his remarks by observers and legal experts, who agree the remarks have come as a clear indication that the prime minister is directly involved in a planned legal action against a civil society group — the Hizmet movement. According to the prime minister’s plans against Hizmet, it is already clear which court and judges will handle the legal case against the movement.

5 children abandoned in front of prison as mother detained

A video shared on social media shows five children left alone in tears in front of a Prison in Ankara after their mother was detained while they were visiting their father in prison. In the video a child opens the door of a car in the prison parking lot, showing his brothers crying, and says in tears, “We are five brothers, left alone. We have a handicapped brother. I commend those people to God’s punishment.”

Academic freedom at universities under growing threat

Süleyman Yaşar, a former columnist at the Sabah daily who has a broad vision regarding the economic policy of the current government, was fired from the outlet for not criticizing the Hizmet movement [the faith-based organization inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen]

Turkey at the precipice

Turkey has a terror problem. The Islamic State, Kurdish extremists and radical leftists each pursue targets inside Turkey seemingly with impunity. Turkey is no stranger to terrorism, but for decades it managed to control the problem. Turkey’s security forces were efficient. Today, however, the situation has changed. Turkish President Erdogan has purged the military, the police, and intelligence professionals.

Inside the eye of Turkey’s political storm, in rural Pennsylvania

A moderate preacher rooted in the Sufi mystic tradition of Islam, Mr. Gulen is known for emphasizing interfaith dialogue. But Mr. Erdogan calls Mr. Gulen and his followers a “cancer” and a “terrorist organization” that is building a “parallel state.” The rancour is personal.

Latest News

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

Bulgaria, the state sentenced to compensate Turkish journalist

64-year-old bedridden woman in 17th month of her imprisonment on “terror” charges

An ‘impossible’ choice: Leave 5-year-old son in foster care or risk being tortured

In Case You Missed It

Gülen’s lawyer warns about possible doctored tapes

Preparations for Turkish Olympiads begin in Morocco

Lawyer: Female journalist traumatized by abuse, torture at Turkish police station

Fethullah Gülen’s initiatives for peace to be discussed in Rotterdam

Turkey’s Global Anti-Gülen Crusade Puts Tbilisi in Diplomatic Bind

Gülen criticizes remarks insulting members of Hizmet movement

Is the AK Party turning into the old CHP?

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News