Erdoğan’s ‘silence the opponents’ campaign has been launched

Erdoğan’s ‘silence the opponents’ campaign has been launched

A comprehensive police raid on one of Turkey’s top conglomerates, Koza İpek Holding, which owns opposition media outlets, television channels Bugün TV and Kanaltürk and newspapers Bugün and Millet, came only two months before the early elections that will take place on Nov. 1. 

Koza İpek Holding is believed to be linked with the Fethullah Gülen community, often called the “parallel state,” which was designated a terrorist organization by the government. Its media organs have been accused of producing propaganda for the organization as well as of providing it with financial assistance. 

This move, however, is regarded by the oppositional parties and independent media as an attempt to silence government opponents in the wake of snap polls, believed to be the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) last effort to regain the single-party government it lost in the June election. There are concerns the raid will be expanded to other oppositional and independent media outlets on charges of supporting terrorist organizations. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier threatened these media organizations, reiterating his determination to defeat the “parallel state” and its sympathizers within the state. 

On the same day, two journalists working for VICE were arrested in Diyarbakir on charges of engaging in terror activity on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The absurdity of the arrest later changed the narrative, as the Turkish police claimed these two journalists and their interpreter were in fact linked with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The U.S., the European Union, the Council of Europe and a number of international and national press associations have strongly reacted to the arrests. 

Pressure on independent media outlets and individual journalists is growing every day and the use of accreditation for restricting these journalists’ access to information is expanding. A number of media outlets, even mainstream ones, are no longer invited to some governmental activities as well as events held at the presidential palace. 

At a moment when the country is rushing to the elections it’s a great concern Turkish public opinion cannot get independent and impartial news from the media. It seems the situation is getting worse in comparison with the June 7 polls. OSCE observers reported at that time: 

“…interlocutors reported increased pressure and intimidation towards media deemed to be critical of those in power. This includes direct interference of public officials and political entities, restriction to access and cover institutional and ruling party [AKP] events and threats to ban media outlets. In addition, fears of a withdrawal of advertising from private companies close to the government, as well as lawsuits against journalists, led to widespread self-censorship. Some media faced pressure and intimidation specifically during the election period.”

There is no doubt that Turkey will hold its snap elections under very extraordinary conditions. On the one hand the government is pursuing a tough struggle against the PKK and is aligning with the United States against ISIL and on the other hand it continues its efforts to crack down on its opponents in the media. Erdoğan and the government’s sole aim is to regain the power they lost in June and they seem to be ready to do everything to this end.