Time for self-criticism in the media on FETÖ

Time for self-criticism in the media on FETÖ

Why has Fethullah Gülen, once called by respectable names like Fethullah Gülen Hodja, become the head of terrorists?

We need to ask this question following the attack in July 15 which was the bloodiest coup attempt Turkey has ever seen. The fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presented his excuses and asked to be pardoned for not having earlier revealed the true face of this organization should be an example for the media.

At a time when politicians, civil servants, soldiers, police officers and everybody else has assumed responsibility, can we say that the media has played no role in the strengthening of this organization to the point that it attempted an atrocious coup?

I think none of the professional media can say no to this question with a clear conscience. Let’s start with the media of the brotherhood. The media of the brotherhood played an important function in promoting this organization and spreading its views to the society. In addition, these media outlets assumed a special mission on operations like Ergenekon, “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) OdaTV and the military espionage case.

Not only did they work as a propaganda machine in the initiations of these legal cases, they published news and articles about journalists who were detained and arrested that would amount to an extrajudicial execution. They were so far from journalism that they could go as far as suggesting that Professor Türkan Saylan was forcing the girls she gave scholarships to into prostitution.

The pro-government media was not much different; they were publishing articles that would reflect the views of the prosecutors and judges. Columnists were acting as the prosecutors of these cases. Reputations and people’s honor were being convicted.

Independent newspapers were under pressure. The brotherhood and the pro-government media which had joined hands until the Dec. 17-25, 2013, operations were forcing independent newspapers into similar lines.

Still, some newspapers, including daily Hürriyet, maintained their critical stance about these cases. It did not approach the cases as prosecutors or judges, reporting instead that the accusations were just that. The defense of the defendants were published and the contradictions in the cases like Ergenekon, OdaTV and Balyoz were questioned.

Lack of thorough reporting on organization

Yet, were there enough questions all those years about the Gülen brotherhood? Were the readers given detailed information after thorough research about the organization and activities? Were the statements of those hurt by the brotherhood given enough space in the papers? Or was there enough coverage about the books on Gülenists? I am not so sure about that.

On the contrary, how the brotherhood promoted itself was accepted and presented as such to the readers.
The way we call them reflects how they were tolerated. First they were the called Gülen brotherhood. Then they asked to be called the “Service Movement” and that was how they started to be called. 

Now the mood has changed. Now it is referred as FETÖ, the Fethullahist Terror Organization. That could well be, but since we are in a new phase, we need to face the past. Drawing lessons from the past by making self-criticism will strengthen our journalism and boost readers’ confidence.