Should we believe Sözcü is a FETÖ supporter?
I wrote an article on June 17 entitled “The need for seriousness in the struggle against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)” after an investigation into the daily Sözcü newspaper began.
The central point of the article was that accusing Sözcü, a newspaper that has always taken a stand against FETÖ, of being a FETÖ supporter, casts a shadow on the credibility and legitimacy of the struggle against the terrorist organization.
Over time the investigation deepened and the accusations became a 73-page long indictment. The trial for this case started on Nov. 7 at the 37th Istanbul High Criminal Court.
Upon reviewing the indictment and the defense, I see no reason to change the opinions I expressed last June.
In the indictment, the owner of the newspaper, Burak Akbay, was accused of “leading an armed terror organization and making propaganda for an armed terror organization.”
Journalist Fehmi Koru’s article in the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak newspaper written on April 24, 2010 under the pen name “Taha Kıvanç” was indicated as an important basis for this accusation. In his article, Koru suggested that Burak Akbay had spent his student life in FETÖ houses and portrayed the daily Sözcü as a FETÖ project.
Later, Koru said he had received this information in a conversation with Akbay’s father, Ertuğrul Akbay, but Akbay strongly denied that such a dialogue ever occurred between them.
Lately, the indictment has been supported by the recurrence of similar accusations.
That is to say, most of the accusations directed towards Sözcü try to find support in articles and testimonies from pro-government journalists.
This paves the way for claims made by pro-government journalists to lead to accusations against opposition media outlets.
On a similar note, it is not right for the prosecution to entrust a journalist who openly supports the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with the task of preparing reports on Sözcü publications.
One of the most serious accusations levelled at Sözcü is naming the hotel President Erdoğan was staying in during a visit to the western province of Muğla. The news story was published on the newspaper’s website on July 15, 2016.
At the end of May earlier this year, journalist Gökmen Ulu, who wrote the Sözcü article, along with the website’s editor-in-chief Mediha Olgun, were arrested for “knowingly helping a terrorist organization without being a part of its hierarchy.”
Ulu is still in prison but Olgun was released on Sept. 21.
In light of these claims, let us remember that the president’s security chief was sentenced to life imprisonment for his connection with the illegal FETÖ/PDY (Parallel State Structure). In that case, when FETÖ made the coup attempt, would they really have needed Sözcü’s news story in order to find out where the president was?
Well, haven’t there been other problematic situations? As cited in the indictment, a news story written in the format of a puzzle in the newspaper’s Jan. 1, 2016 issue made some very ugly statements about Erdoğan. The person responsible for the story had already been convicted upon a separate investigation regarding this issue.
The prosecutor has also accused Sözcü of using posts from Fuat Avni’s social media account, which has been linked to FETÖ, and for publishing news from similar accounts about leaked illegal wiretaps.
However, it is important not to forget that during those times, Fuat Avni was one of Turkey’s most followed social media accounts.
If sharing information from such accounts during that period amounts to criminal activity, then I am afraid we may need to create extra prisons in order to hold all these people.
Moreover, the corruption investigation of Dec. 17-25 (based on photographs of shoeboxes filled with money) that Sözcü reported on had also been widely published by media outlets and social media accounts.
Had Sözcü only been sued for being in opposition to the government, the accusation would at least be logically coherent. But when we consider Sözcü’s strong journalistic stance against FETÖ/PDY, introducing this newspaper as a FETÖ project makes no sense. To be credible indictments need to be convincing. This indictment has not convinced me.