Am I dismayed? No… Not at all
Turkey is fast becoming an authoritarian country. The president said it plainly, irrespective of whether the disobeying sections of Turkish society agree with it or not: Turkey has gone through a de facto system change. It is now time to go to the polling booths, cast votes according to what is expected by the “master of the nation” and legitimize it.
It is as if the entire country is living through the very same traumatic nightmare. It is not conceivable by any rational mind that an “advisor” would inadvertently confess - or a private discussion with someone else somehow makes it to the newspaper pages - it was he who suggested an officious prosecutor demand banning critical media outlets from all public media platforms. Worse, upon a “request” made by a prosecutor in a “letter” - not a court decision - all public media platforms would kick out all those critical TV stations without making a statement to the public about why and based on what legal background such a decision incompatible not only with the freedom of press principle but also with the constitutional right of the citizens to have access to information.
Domestication of all segments of Turkish society has been a systematic campaign of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governance since at least 2007, when the so-called Ergenekon, sledgehammer and similar other thriller-type pogroms were launched against the secular and disobeying segments of society, be they the military, academia or the media. The “reform-minded” perception the AKP created, particularly in the Western political arena, helped it proceed for some time with its “domestication” program without any serious complication in the international arena.
The Gezi incidents of 2013 were instrumental in the West waking up to the oppressive AKP reality in Turkey but for most Turks that was an old story already. Tax people going after businessmen, particularly after media bosses, billions of Turkish Liras worth of tax fines and constant bashing by the then premier on allegiant media outlets were nothing but the routine for the Turkey of the AKP.
In all those years of systematic soul-torture a handful of people managed to maintain their integrity while most succumbed to pressure and engaged in an allegiance relationship with the political authority. It was of course at least a moral responsibility for this writer and many others not to be angry and continue defending the supremacy of law, equality of all in front of the law, freedom of thought, freedom of press and of course the right to criticize, if not for anything else but because of the feeling of indebtedness to the friends serving behind bars without being properly accused of any wrongdoing.
Times have passed and all those accused during those years - and who managed to remain alive - are today out of prison. The responsibility for all those soul-torturing practices was placed squarely on the shoulders of a “parallel” gang, the Fethullah Gülen brotherhood, which since then has ceased to be the “partner” but declared an “arch enemy” by the AKP over power sharing squabbles.
Were Gülenists not responsible for the AKP’s 2007-2013 soul-torture on the secularists? Of course they were part of the ordeal but the government was with the AKP and only governments can be held responsible for things that go bad. Gülenists were just accomplices of the AKP.
The AKP hunt of the Gülenists in the post-2013 period, on the other hand, helped Turkey enhance the base of democracy and consolidated a call for change through democracy and democratic vote. An undeclared alliance emerged between the day’s oppressed brotherhood and yesterday’s oppressed secularists. Liberals who all along their journey aligned with the AKP parted from the ruling party as well. That was something the AKP never ever considered.
With the frustration of seeing all its tactics were failing or at least not producing the hoped for results, the government intensified its “battle” with the Gülenists further while also consolidating positions against the secularists. The government manipulated media ownership change schemes - one of which we are now living through with the İpek group developments - or not only verbal but also physical attacks against media groups, some sort of a “zone cleaning” operation, were launched. Since Gezi or the June polls of this year, hundreds of journalists were laid off and forced to resign or even abandon journalism all together.
The polls on Nov. 1 are therefore crucial for the future of this country. Will Turkey turn into a Middle- East-type autocracy, or continue nourishing democratic values and norms?
Am I dismayed seeing the latest developments? That is a question I encounter so much these days. No… definitely no. Journalists are like innkeepers, and politicians are just passing by travelers. The current political clan will go, sooner or later, as well. Journalists should not have the right to feel dismayed.