Pulitzer Prize equals five years in prison in Turkey

Emre Uslu
Emre Uslu


Date posted: December 14, 2013

EMRE USLU

The statement in the headline belongs to Bülent Arınç, deputy prime minister and spokesperson for the Turkish government. Moreover, he is responsible for the government’s media policy.

For Western readers, I should clarify that he was not joking when he said, “A journalist might win the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, but he should face the consequence of five years in prison.”

The worst part is that Arınç is known for his tolerance of the media and journalism. I cannot imagine what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would demand if a journalist published confidential documents. Perhaps 10 years in prison?

For those who have not followed the debate, here is a summary. Journalist Mehmet Baransu of the liberal Taraf daily published a controversial document from a 2004 National Security Council (MGK) meeting which contained an action plan for the government against the religious movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

As a follow-up story, Taraf also published confidential documents showing that the government had actually enacted the MGK’s recommendations. For instance, after the MGK meeting, the government began to store the personal information of individuals connected to the Gülen movement. Taraf also published documents showing that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) still keeps files on individuals based on which community they belong to, which faith group they are associated with and so on.

Immediately after the documents’ publication in Taraf, Erdoğan slammed the report, accusing those responsible of “treason.”

Following the prime minister’s accusation, prosecutors began investigating Baransu and Taraf. The Prime Ministry, MİT and the MGK also filed separate criminal complaints. Baransu now faces a total of 47 years in prison.

This case will be a litmus test for Turkish democracy, for two reasons. Yes, of course it is illegal to publish MGK documents in the press. However, the Constitution prohibits governments and the state bureaucracy from developing plans to destroy law-abiding civil society groups. The Constitution also prohibits the government from keeping files of personal data on lawful groups or Turkish citizens.

The Taraf documents clearly show that the government undersigned a document advising criminal action against a civilian group. Because the Constitution prohibits the Turkish government from preparing or conducting such activities, the documents published by Taraf should be considered evidence of a crime committed by the government. Thus, their publication is not illegal. What is illegal, however, is the government’s signing such a document against the Gülen movement.

Moreover, in terms of journalism’s democratic standards, there should be no restrictions on the documents that can be published. And journalists should test the limits of what is publishable. The American and European media showed great examples of this in the WikiLeaks case, the Abu Ghraib prison case in Iraq and the latest National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping scandals.

The Turkish government, of course, knows all these examples. It was this government that improved the standards of Turkish democracy. But since 2007, unfortunately, Turkey is returning to its old position in which democratic rules are not in effect.

Arınç’s unfortunate statement is just one sign of the direction in which Turkey is heading. This is what he said: “Leaking the story may be described as ‘successful journalism’ by some, but this does not mean it is not a crime. It is a crime to publish confidential documents from the MGK. The title ‘journalist’ does not give one the privilege of exemption from what’s written in the law. Someone who makes himself or herself a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize for successful journalism should understand that they could face five years in prison because of the law and should do the job accordingly with courage. Nobody has the right to complain,” said Arınç in a speech in Parliament.

“If you say: ‘I did it by choice. I am aware of the consequences. This is journalism,’ you have to stand and face the consequences of the law. If you say, ‘I have done this for my country, and I will face all charges,’ then you will do such things,” Arınç added.

At the end of his remarks, Arınç said: “I am not threatening the journalist. I am just saying what is written in the law. They will not be afraid of my threats. I am a lawyer.”

If this is not a threat, then what is? Western democracies and the European Union should pay attention to this poisonous mentality against the free press in Turkey and do whatever they can to accept Turkey into the EU. Otherwise Turkish citizens will have to pay the price for “Turkish-style democracy.”

Source: Today's Zaman , December 14, 2013


Related News

UN praises Kimse Yok Mu for aid efforts in Somalia

Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging said in an interview on Thursday that Kimse Yok Mu and other Turkish NGOs’ aid efforts in Somalia should be praised.

Şimşek: Despite slander, Gülen remains silent to avoid provoking gov’t supporters

Osman Şimşek, editor of herkul.org — the website that usually publishes Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s speeches — has said that the Islamic cleric doesn’t respond to slander and insulting remarks so as not to provoke those who support the government.

Abrupt gov’t decision to revoke status of Kimse Yok Mu draws criticism

Turkey’s leading charity, Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), had its right to collect charitable donations abruptly rescinded on Tuesday, in what seems to be an arbitrary decision made during a Cabinet meeting, prompting harsh reactions from volunteers, lawmakers of the opposition parties and representatives of other civil society groups.

Academics: Hizmet a movement, not a gang; Gülen builds ties

The Hizmet movement led by US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen is not a gang but a movement, academics have said in reaction to a smear campaign led by the Turkish government against the movement and its representatives.

Terrorist investigation against Kimse Yok Mu draws strong reactions

A shocking investigation being conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against prominent charity organization Kimse Yok Mu on charges of terrorism has been met with strong reactions from experts, who question how a charity can be accused of terrorism for delivering aid to those in need.

Developing Ghana; the role of Tudec and Galaxy İnt’l School

More Turkish investors have expressed their interest to invest in education, the real estate, construction and manufacturing sectors in Ghana. The President of the Ghana-Turkey Cooperation and Development Association (TUDEC), Mr Yusuf Temizkan, says prospective investors would be arriving in the country within the year to inject their capital into the country’s economy. He said […]

Latest News

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

In Case You Missed It

Islamic scholar Gülen’s poems turned into songs for international album

Corruption scandal will consolidate Turkish democracy

Top judge, paralysed after cancer surgery, under arrest at hospital

Turkish court orders 81-year-old man to stay behind bars on coup charges

Dr. Soltes: Hizmet cares for Turkey and humanity

Turkey blacklists 68 companies including Germany’s Daimler, BASF over Gülen links

In Turkey, how Germany’s president became ‘Germany’s imam’

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News