Whitewashing corruption-restricting press freedom

Whitewashing corruption-restricting press freedom

It has been more than four months since a legal prosecution investigating one of the country’s most important corruption and graft networks was launched. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his family members, and some Cabinet members were accused of corruption and there were claims that the prime minister immediately urged his son, Bilal Erdoğan, to remove the cash in their house to another safe place as a precaution.

Former ministers Zafer Çağlayan, Egemen Bağış, Erdoğan Bayraktar and Muammer Güler resigned from their position in the aftermath of the Dec. 17, 2013 operation, as their sons had been arrested on charges of corruption and graft. They have been accused of receiving millions of dollars and euros in bribes from Reza Zarrab, along with more than a dozen bureaucrats, including the head of Halkbank, a public bank.

All detainees were released pending trial on the eve of the local elections and yesterday reports showed that prosecutors had dismissed cases against 60 suspects, including the son of former Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and construction tycoon Ali Ağaoğlu, in the second leg of the graft probe regarding illegal construction permits. Prosecutors cited “lack of evidence” as the reason for their move.

In addition, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) announced late May 2 that it launched investigations into judges and prosecutors responsible for the Dec. 17 corruption probe. It also demanded the freezing of their assets. To cut a long story short, those who are accused of corruption and wrongdoing are not being properly and efficiently prosecuted, but those who probe such claims are under scrutiny, making similar prosecutions of government officials nearly impossible in the future.

In normal democracies, corruption allegations are deemed to be very important and efficient investigation of such claims is regarded to be very important for the sake of democracy. Covering up corruption claims is, however, seen as the worst form of a growing totalitarian regime, as transparency and accountability are the main pillars of democratic regimes.

Now, mentioning U.S. think tank Freedom House’s recently released press freedom report becomes an obligation at this point. Restricting press freedom and covering up corruption claims are typical indicators of an authoritarian regime. To this end, the Freedom House report does not offer much: Turkey has been relegated from the league of “Partly Free” countries to the league of “Not Free” countries, according to the report.

Here is an excerpt from the report: “Citing the desire of governments, especially authoritarian ones, to control news content as the main reason for the regression, the report suggested that there were positive developments in a number of countries, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa but that the dominant trends were reflected in setbacks in a range of settings. Turkey, which was 117th in last year’s report, fell to 134th place.”

Today’s Turkey reflects a bunch of politicians corrupting the country’s richness and future of its children, and a bunch of newspapers and television channels distorting reality. I am not so sure which is worse.