Silencing Taraf daily

Emre Uslu
Emre Uslu


Date posted: December 6, 2013

EMRE USLU

The liberal Taraf daily, where I write a column, is one of the few independent newspapers in this country.

Those who don’t know the Turkish media well need to know that media outlets are largely owned by private holdings which have close ties to the government. Thus, Turkish newspapers need to consider whether their reporting would harm their bosses’ business connections with the government.

Another group of newspapers are published by social groups as a mechanism to reach out to larger segments of society and as a shield defending the group’s rights when the government or other group launches negative campaigns against that particular group.

Unfortunately the Turkish state has always been very powerful. Worst, the state bureaucracy and, from time to time, democratically elected governments have not hesitated to go after social groups when they believe that a certain group poses a threat to the government or state ideology. It is during the period when the state/government decides to launch an offensive campaign against a certain group that social groups need media outlets to defend them the most.

The liberal Taraf daily is perhaps the only exception to these media outlets and publishes newspapers as an art of journalistic enthusiasm. Thus, regardless of premeditated considerations, the editors of Taraf publish items that are considered newsworthy according to Western standards.

For this very reason, many officials trust Taraf and share documents with them for various reasons. The editors of Taraf do not discuss why certain documents come to them at certain times. What the editors discuss is whether the document is authentic and whether it bears any information that can be considered news.

It is because of this attitude of Taraf that officials continue to share their documents with us. Usually, such documents come to us when there is a conflict within the government.

Last week Taraf published critical documents which revealed that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had accepted a plan for a crackdown against the Fethullah Gülen movement and other religious groups as well. It was shocking to find out that AKP ministers, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül, had signed a plan against the Gülen movement though they all seem to be getting along well in public.

In following days, Taraf also published several documents which indicated that members of the Gülen movement in Turkey and abroad were under a heavy profiling program and that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) continuously kept records about members of the Gülen movement.

More importantly, it was revealed that those who were profiled were dismissed from their critical posts in the government. Worst, members of the Gülen movement argue that the government also profiles businesses based on their proximity to any social or religious groups.

According to Turkish and international laws, it is a crime to put a legal group under heavy surveillance.

Expectedly, Taraf published the documents which launched an intense debate about what the AKP government was trying to do.

In response, the AKP government, the Cabinet, discussed for four hours how to silence Taraf. Keep in mind that the Cabinet has very rarely discussed a critical issue for this long. Thus silencing Taraf must be a very important issue for the Cabinet to devote almost five hours to think how to silence Taraf.

Unfortunately the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Security Council (MGK) and MİT all went to court separately to silence Taraf. They are accusing Taraf of publishing confidential documents which incriminate Turkish citizens, committing espionage and terrorism.

The most bizarre accusation about Taraf came from MİT. According to MİT, Taraf published reports to incite Germany to wage war against Turkey. The evidence they provided was Angela Merkel’s photo and Erdoğan’s photo.

For Westerners who might think I am joking, no I am not. Indeed MİT sued Taraf for inciting Germany to wage war against Turkey. Our young reporter Huseyin Ozcaya faces dozens of years in prison due to charges in this odd court case…

For experienced Turkish citizens, we all know what all this is: a way of silencing Taraf…

Source: Today's Zaman , December 6, 2013


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