A salute to the media…

A salute to the media…

As is often said, the worst civilian government is far better than a coup administration. It is not a matter of love or hate, but an existential one: The age of military takeovers is over in Turkey. Advances in communications technology and new gadgets of ordinary life which have almost become part of our bodies - cell phones, the Internet - turned each and every one of us into members of a global network which made it almost impossible to achieve anything extraordinary, particularly a coup which required extensive planning and coordination. Now, just shortly after the failed July 15 coup, it has become clear that at least five hours before the coup attempt was put into action the national security agency, the top brass of the military and the president himself  were aware of the “extraordinary developments.”

If the First Army was part of the coup, perhaps it would have been far more problematic to put it off, but not only was he not part of the heinous attempt to take down the elected government, First Army Commander Gen. Ümit Dündar was the person who not only informed the president of the coming coup but offered to provide his security in Istanbul. If the Istanbul-based First Army had participated in the coup attempt, perhaps the takeover would have succeeded; indeed it was units from the First Army that occupied Atatürk Airport and closed down the two Bosphorus bridges. Yet Gen. Dündar was not part of the coup attempt, calling back to their barracks the units participating in the attempt, which was why the coup attempt collapsed first in Istanbul.

These are just some interesting background stories of what happened on July 15. How were Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and other top commanders captured and held hostage by the rebels, or in what psychological collapse was the coup administration in ordering the dastardly unprecedented bombardment of the Turkish parliament building? During the coming days and weeks a lot will be published on such issues, shedding more light on how things evolved on that unfortunate night.

But, how did the coup fail? Who stopped it? Was it the police? The intelligence network that only learned about the coup attempt five hours before it was launched? What would have happened if, as apparently was originally planned, the coup took place on May 3 rather than July 15; would intelligence have again learned about it only a few hours before it was launched?

This writer has some conceptual incompatibilities with the political choice of almost half of the nation. The authoritarian governance style, “I know all” arrogance and constant obsessive, repulsive, angry character of the ruling mentality however befits well the expectations of the majority of the people of this land. Was it because of power-worshipping, fatalist genes or just a “surrender and enjoy” philosophy? Yet, the government in office is an elected one and must be replaced at the ballot box. Turkey should achieve that this time. Had it not sacrificed its elected government in 1960 to a military coup perhaps Turkish democracy would be far stronger today than any one of us might envision.

In 1960, the elected prime minister was toppled by a military coup. Masses demonstrating for him just days before the military takeover remained silent. Opponents rejoiced. The premier and his two ministers walked to the gallows a year later, leaving an immense pain in the hearts of the nation which has not been healed since.

The July 15 coup attempt was similar to the 1960 coup from many aspects, headed by the fact that it was out of the command chain. Like the 1960 takeover, the July 15 attempt was organized by lower-ranking officers who formed a “Peace in the Homeland Council.” Apparently a retired Air Force commander was the behind-the-scenes leader of it. Had it succeed, perhaps they would have steered Turkey back to a Kemalist line – at least that was what they said in their statement read out on TRT. Yet, there are strong indications that it was not a Kemalist coup attempt at all, but one carried out by supporters of the Gülen movement in the military. Was it really? In this country, where excellence in forging documents has become an outstanding achievement, nothing can be sure. Yet, the governance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has capitulated on this issue and started making best use of it by unleashing a radical purge of alleged Gülenists in the top courts and lower courts.

Why did the coup fail? Why were they so unorganized? Why did they have such bad coordination? Questions or worries that the coup attempt might have indeed been Erdoğan’s Kristallnacht are perhaps irrelevant for now, as today ought to be a day to celebrate Turkish media effectively killing a coup attempt.

As odd and paradoxical as it might be, the Erdoğan governance was indeed saved by the Turkish media he has been so vigorously harassing over the past 14 years. If not for CNN Türk, NTV and other channels who defied the coup orders, continued broadcasts and not only informed people of the developments but provided a platform for Erdoğan and his cabinet to reach out to the masses and ask them to take to the streets, the coup would most likely have succeed and instead of the junta and their men some other people would be in prison today.

This is a salute to the free media… And, let’s hope Erdoğan has realized the importance of free media.