Time for a new ministry

Time for a new ministry

Finally, Prime Minister Erdoğan has made a call for a “national media” (“milli basın”) that will take the responsibility to publish in tune with the “national interest.” We already knew that the prime minister has a strong dislike of criticism and difference of opinion, and the latest occasion on which he needed to make a call for “responsible reporting” is in the case of daily Milliyet. When the daily published the “leaked document” of Abdullah Öcalan talking with BDP MP’s in İmralı a week ago, it was not welcomed by any party. Soon, the debate on the leaks escalated and turned into a political scandal.

The reaction of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) started to define the whole affair as a great sabotage on the path of the peace process and ended up in a wholesale attack on the press.

That is how the prime minister came to the point of making a call for the necessity of a “national press,” as the process was “too fragile” and all internal and external enemies of Turkey were eager to spoil the process. In fact, I think a “Ministry of Information and Propaganda” would be a better idea, and it seems that this is what Turkey needs nowadays.

So far, criticism of the government’s policies in general is almost forbidden. What is worse than official censorship and governmental pressure in a county is “self-censorship,” as well as the “intellectualizing” and therefore “legitimizing” of censorship. This has happened in Turkey for a while. Any criticism of government policies has been regarded as paving the way for a new military coup and/or as a call to return to “military hegemony.” This was also the case with me, when I was accused of being part of the Ergenekon plot after I expressed my concern about the replacement of military authoritarianism with a civil authoritarianism three years ago. The so-called democratic intellectuals have always been ready to accuse anyone who has raised any criticism of the “civil rule,” i.e. the government.

It is more so in the debate on the Kurdish issue, as any criticism (or even any observation) of the government’s mishandling of the issue is considered to be a hindrance to chances for peace and to play into the hands of those who are against a peaceful resolution. That is why it is not surprising to see many journalists and intellectuals, nowadays, accusing their colleagues of either being tools in a conspiracy, or simply of being irresponsible, in the Milliyet incident. Ironically, the same people who accused others of being a tool in a plot or of being irresponsible are now being accused by others, in a very similar way. In fact, only a month ago, one of the Milliyet columnists (who happens to be a professor of political science) accused me of “making a call to the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK not to disarm,” just because I expressed concerns about the government’s Kurdish politics. He and his editor-in-chief friend are the targets of accusations now.

In fact, what is happening in Turkey is a “textbook case” of rising authoritarianism, although apparently even professors do not read textbooks in this country. Or perhaps they are so scared that they forget all they previously read. That’s why I suggest establishing a “Ministry of Information and Propaganda” to make things simpler and clearer. It seems that this is only what this country deserves, as rights and freedoms are for those who crave and struggle for them. Besides, if we had such a ministry, we could finally stop calling its employees “public intellectuals,” “journalists,” and “democrats.”