Media must be critical by its nature, says Turkish President Gül

Media must be critical by its nature, says Turkish President Gül

Sedat ERGİN ROME - Hürriyet
Media must be critical by its nature, says Turkish President Gül

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) shakes hands with his Italian counterpart, Giorgio Napolitano, during his visit to Rome on Jan 29. AA photo

President Abdullah Gül has voiced a defense of a free media, noting that the press must be critical by its very nature during a visit to Rome.

"Sometimes, because of the nature of the media, it is generally expected to be critical. If you say, ‘Why does the media criticize? It should also see the positive aspects,’ then it stops being the media; it becomes something else. I am saying this as an objective media analysis,” Gül said. 

He made the comments during a wide-ranging discussion that addressed the row between the government and the Gülen community, the state of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the view of the Western media, and the fate of Specially Authorized Courts (ÖYM).

“There could be circles that may want to make us look bad intentionally, but it is not correct to generalize this and say, ‘The outside world wants to portray us badly; they are conducting a campaign.’ Let us not forget that once it was the same papers that wrote in their headlines ‘Reformist government in Turkey’ for us. They praised our achievements a lot, actually. For this reason, we need to be objective. Sometimes you also come across pieces that are obviously, very intentionally extra negative,” Gül said.

The president's remarks contrasted markedly with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent angry denouncements of purported enemies plotting against Turkey, toward the top of which usually comes the media.

“[The media] should not be generalized as the enemy of Turkey. We would be misleading ourselves; we would be placing everyone on the side of the enemies of Turkey,” Gül said.

“This is out of the question. This is true for the European Union; also for the United States. They hosted our prime minister in the U.S. six months ago at the top level. When you look at European countries, Mr. Tayyip Erdoğan was recently at the EU. Even though there were differences of opinion, a nice, civilized meeting was conducted. The French president has visited us; a new era is starting. From that point of view, we need to be selective. Indeed, if we fall even to a small extent, there will be circles that will descend upon us. We should be realistic, but we should not adopt a generalizing stance,” he added.

“What we should all take into account is the Constitution, the law, fundamental principles – everybody should respect them. I believe we should be bringing Turkey into a normal atmosphere. There are various complaints … All of them should be listened to and should be handled objectively. But, discourse comes first,” Gül said.

Asked whether there were clashes between top state institutions, Gül acknowledged possible problems.

“If there were no problems, this much smoke would not have risen. There are diverse solidarities in some institutions within the state system; there are certain examples of this. They can be corrected within the legal framework. Nothing can be more normal than correcting this," he said.

"As a matter of fact, these solidarities may be religious or may be ethnic; hence, the loyalty of all the staff under the rule of law is first to the Constitution, to the laws and then to the state. If there is a directive to be received, it should be in the hierarchical system within the laws. If there is solidarity outside this, it cannot be tolerated within the legal framework, no matter what the motive is,” the president added.

‘Discussion can be offensive’ 

“There are some small fluctuations in our economy, even though they do not have a very big dimension; these are clearly visible. However, despite all this, it is also a fact that Turkey has political stability. My opinion is there is nobody who is asking ‘what will happen tomorrow’ because of stability,” Gül said.

“When viewed from the point of economic stability, the basic indicators are evident. Even the French president was impressed by the indicators. In today’s circumstances, there is no question of any uncertainty regarding Turkey,” he added.

Cooperation between the government and the opposition could also help the country exit the nation’s current crisis, he said.

“As far as I can see, it has become a must. I see it as ‘this matter has calmed down now.’ After the prime minister’s latest statements, other political parties have also welcomed it. A constitutional amendment can still be done,” Gül added, referring to greater consensus on a bill to reform the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) that comes in the wake of the recent graft probe.

Internet freedom 

Gül also expressed his support for freedom of the Internet, while also noting the need for "some restrictions."

“The Internet is such an ocean that while opening to the ocean, I see it as only natural that in terms of children and those segments that need to be protected, there should be protective alternatives. I do not think it is correct for anyone to be thrown into the water in such an ocean without a life buoy,” he said.

He also described French President François Hollande’s recent visit to Turkey as "very positive."

“I am sure a new era will start with France. I can say they were very impressed. They generally had a lot of prejudices, but there was no clash of interests between us. Even so, problems erupted because of third parties. They have noticed that and want to make up for it. I regard all of these as very important in terms of Turkey’s international concerns and especially, in terms of our relations with the EU, which are said to be very much neglected recently. In the coming days, there will be several reciprocal high-level visits with EU countries. All of these are positive developments. We are a part of Europe,” Gül said.

The president also issued a strong defense of the country’s reforms over the past decade, saying legal amendments were designed to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and basic rights and freedoms at EU standards. 

“[These reforms] are also crucial for this reason: Turkey is not an oil or natural gas country. Turkey’s richness is its dynamic human power, young population and industrious people. When this richness combines with the rule of law standards, appropriate rules and democracy, then Turkey’s strength will surface. Because of this, we are trying to strengthen these standards. This is why our relations with the EU are important,” he said.