Election campaign kicks off with Koza raid
In democratic countries, election campaigns probably start with rallies, an inauguration of some local administration or central government achievements. In semi democracies, the situation might be different. In pseudo or peculiar democracies like Turkey, often the “political campaign” might turn rather dirty. Many people might recall the “tape wars” of Turkey’s recent political history.
How was the top echelon of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) cleansed of heavy guns of nationalist politics with some hidden camera recordings of illicit bedroom affairs? How was the leadership of the perennial main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) hunted down with similar “dirty” recordings? Would it be possible at all to see Deniz Baykal out of CHP leadership and Kemal “Gandhi” Kılıçdaroğlu elevated to a post he would never ever dream of?
The “tape wars” of the last mayoral election and to a lesser extent the June 7 election appeared to have taken place between the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood and its former political ally, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), particularly President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Would it be possible for the ordinary Turk to hear at all about an alleged massive graft, the syphoning of millions of euros through land deals, gold trade with Iran or the “zeroing” of millions stashed in some residences, allegedly including those of the family of the president?
The Watergate Scandal was, of course, a monumental turning point in American politics, as well as journalism. The world saw vividly that if it was in the interest of the public, even the most powerful could not do anything to stop exposure of the illegitimate deals. Of course, that norm applies only if there is a checks and balances system in the country and the supremacy of law and equality of all in front of lawful principles are in place.
If a political group, or worse, an individual gathers the legislative, executive, judiciary and even the media in one hand, the system of governance in that country cannot be democracy of any sort. If in a country, the legislative, judiciary, executive and media are covered by a veil of fear or paralyzed with fear, can how the system of governance is described mean much? Would it mean much whether the absolute ruler is called dictator, fuhrer, duce, absolute boss, sultan or the super president?
The Press for Freedom project of the Association of Journalists – of which this writer has been serving as its coordinator – reported last month that over the past three months at least 140 journalists were fired from their jobs or forced to step down. All because of an “accreditation” practice imposed on almost all government offices and public institutions by some boneheads who believe they serve the president with such oddities.
With elections approaching and the president vowing at every occasion that repeat of June 7 will not be allowed on Nov. 1, anxiety is increasing among remaining media still courageous enough to remain critical – as dictated by the raison d’être of the profession. For some time, a whistleblower – who has been proven correct repeatedly in the past – was tweeting that a massive operation against opponents in the media was in the pipeline. Indeed the whistleblower – code named Fuat Avni, who so far could not be identified despite all the efforts of the ruling political clan – gave a list of media companies to be punished by the “men of the president.”
This morning’s attacks against media groups started with a raid on the Koza İpek Group, the publisher and owner of the Bugün newspaper and TV station Kanaltürk TV, among many other newspapers, web sites, universities, printing and such industries. Coincidentally, the newspaper edition of Sözcü appeared Tuesday [Sept. 1] with columns left blank by its writers in protest, declaring to its readers what the situation would look like if the “domestication of media” pogrom of the AKP was allowed to continue.
Obviously, as underlined repeatedly yesterday by all political opponents in reaction to yesterday’s police raids on Koza İpek group and the columns left blank by Sözcü writers: There can be no trace of democracy in a country where its media is silenced.