Unbearable lightness of waking up to a more democratic country!
The government has started to put into effect the much-anticipated democratization package, starting with lifting bans on wearing the headscarf in public offices and abolishing the obligatory oath for primary school students. For Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, these particular steps will help the Republic of Turkey to return to its authentic spirit. The government is planning to actualize the content of the package until the end of this month or early November.
As I wrote in this column last week, the pro-government media jumped for joy over the package with some of them calling it “revolutionary.” “We are running towards democracy” read yesterday’s Habertürk newspaper’s headline, once part of the mainstream media.
In support of what pro-government media has been promoting, I will try to cite three incidents to prove how freedoms have been expanded in the country since the democratization package was opened.
The first one is about Eskişehir’s Governor Azim Tuna who used his freedom of speech for insulting and threatening İsmail Saymaz, daily Radikal’s correspondent for his reports on the slaying of Gezi protestor Ali İsmail Korkmaz.
“If you discuss this subject by interpreting it again, you’re vile and inglorious,” Tuna said in an email sent to Saymaz, recalling that “there is [the life to come], we will see each other there sooner or later.” The governor has proven that freedom of speech is under constitutional guarantee in Turkey thanks to the ruling party’s efforts to turn the country into a contemporary democracy. By extending his threats through the internet, Governor Tuna has also proven the very existence of freedom of communication, nixing claims that security and intelligence bodies are taking new measures for the surveillance of communication through social media.
The reaction of Prime Minister Erdoğan to the governor’s email is eye-opening for many who resist understanding the contemporary form of democracy. “He is in fact a good and nice friend of ours. I do not know how he was taken unawares?” he said during an interview last week. The Interior Ministry announced that an investigation has been launched, in a proof of the government’s sensitivity on the accountability of public officials. Just for the record, the governor is still on duty.
Another heralding news is the government’s plans to adopt a new regulation that will allow Turkish police to detain those who present the “risk of conducting a protest” from 12 to 24 hours without the demand of a prosecutor or a judge. Talking about expanding the police’s right to crack down on protestors, only days after the famous package too little improved the right to assembly, should surely be seen as how the government attaches importance on reciprocity. Alleviating concerns, the prime minister did deny such reports yesterday and blamed the media. But I am still suspicious when it comes to security issues.
The third one is a meeting held by the Undersecretariat of Public Order and Security last week as reported by the daily Milliyet on Monday. The objective of the meeting to seek new intelligence and communication methods is to prevent protestors from getting organized and turning it into a mass protest, just like they did during the Gezi demonstrations. Apart from other security and intelligence bodies, the Milliyet said representatives from the Anadolu Agency, TRT, Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) and Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) joined the meeting. I am doubtful that those representatives highlighted freedom of press and of speech and advised security officials to be more tolerant against those who have something to say in a peaceful demonstration. The point is that: state press is hand in hand with the security-intelligence bodies to upgrade Turkey’s democratic level and leave behind other autocratic regimes.