Thou shall let thy media free
“Is that only two articles and a news item that you have against me?” Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of daily Zaman asked the judge. “Yes,” answered Bekir Altun, the Istanbul 1st Criminal Court judge. “Then no one will be able to explain to the world if I am arrested on those,” Dumanlı replied, and the judge released him, while slapping a travel restriction since the court case will continue. This is how the case on Dec. 19 was reported by Zaman on the 21st.
But Hidayet Karaca, the general director of the Samanyolu TV, which belongs to the same media group in line with Fethullah Gülen, the moderate Islamist ideologue living in the U.S., was not as lucky; he was arrested by the same court to be tried in jail, together with a number of former police chiefs.
Karaca has been added to the list of journalists arrested in Turkey. It’s not just media associations in and outside Turkey but also international entities like the European Union, which Turkey wants to become a part of, denounced the arrest as a violation of press freedom in Turkey.
President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu slammed the criticisms, saying the journalists would not be tried because of their media activities but because of their alleged involvement in a secret terrorist organization designed to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government.
The evidence against Karaca, as far as it has been revealed so far, is an episode of a TV drama broadcasted by Samanyolu TV four years ago. In that episode, the head of an Islamist group was shown to be in cooperation with al-Qaeda and days after the broadcast, a police operation was indeed carried out against an Islamist group, called “Tahşiye” (pronouced as Tahshiya), and its leader Mehmet Doğan, with 122 others also being arrested. Doğan was critical of Gülen’s teachings.
The same day as Dumanlı’s release and Karaca’s arrest, another court issued an arrest warrant against Gülen, with accusations that he was the leader of a terrorist organization bent on overthrowing the government.
The accusation is that they have been running a terrorist organization but there is no terrorist action known or any weapons involved so far. Dumanlı strongly reacted that only some articles and a TV drama episode on Tahşiye were used as evidence of a plot against the government.
Dumanlı wrote on March 7, 2011, the following on the arrests of three journalists, Soner Yalçın, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener in his column in Zaman: “An important part of the media fiercely reacted [to the arrests]. They claim there was pressure on journalists, the Ergenekon probe has gone out of control and Turkey is heading toward a police state. (…) Everyone should stand against if journalists are prosecuted because of their press activities, but if there are activities otherwise, the abuse of journalism as a shield should not be permitted. (…) The Prime Minister [then Erdoğan] is right; let the courts decide [whether they are innocent].”
A draft of Şık’s unpublished book, “The Army of the Imam,” about Gülen’s Hizmet (The Service) movement, was counted as evidence and later on, it was understood that much of other similar evidence had been fabricated during detention and prosecution; the journalists spent months in prison.
Now Erdoğan and Davutoğlu claim such cases (like dozens of others) were all because of a deception operation by Gülenists who had infiltrated the security and justice system, as if Erdoğan’s AK Parti had not been ruling the country since 2002. And as if Gülen had not given full support to the AK Parti election campaigns, calling on his followers to even bring their dead from their graves to support Erdoğan at the polls.
Best allies Erdoğan and Gülen became arch enemies following two corruption probes on Dec. 17, and 25, 2013, involving ministers, party members, civil servants, friendly businessmen and even family members of Erdoğan. Erdoğan immediately denounced the probes as a coup attempt against him.
And there is something that smells weird regarding the Tahşiye case, too.
Erdoğan accused Gülenists, right after the police raid on Zaman, of fabricating evidence against the pious group of Tahşiye and its leader, Mehmet Doğan, by showing him to be in line with the terrorists of al-Qaeda. “Both of his eyes are almost blind,” he said. “They kept him behind bars for 17 years.” It was actually 17 months, but Erdoğan’s comment was a possible Freudian slip.
Journalist Akif Beki was one of the spokesmen for Erdoğan when he was prime minister. Now he is a columnist for daily Hürriyet and presents a news show on CNNTürk.
Beki hosted Mehmet Doğan on Dec. 19 on CNNTürk. And the truth rises up thanks to the journalistic activity of Beki. Doğan said he “liked” the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden because he was Muslim. It was also obvious that he was not blind; he was wearing glasses and could read documents easily.
If Beki did not have the freedom to invite Doğan live to foil the Gülenist plot against him as Erdoğan said, public opinion would not have known that the Tahşiye leader sympathized with al-Qaeda’s leader, who was killed during a U.S. commando operation in 2011.
So, in modern times, thou shalt let thy press be free, to let the truth surface.
As Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, said in 1930, “The cure to the problems stemming from press freedom is press freedom itself.”