An imperious duty: Condemning authoritarianism

An imperious duty: Condemning authoritarianism

At conferences with young journalists, veterans of the profession often underline that journalists are very much like inn keepers while politicians, governments and mayors are just passersby who come and go. Thus, they say, journalists must not align with the “guests” of the inn, but must instead maintain their integrity under all conditions.

Unfortunately, Turkey has been passing through an era of massive corrosion in terms of all values, norms and ethics, not only in journalism but in all professions. In parallel with the consolidation of autocracy, an officious bureaucracy, legislature, judiciary, executive and media have developed in the country. This situation cannot be compatible at all with the notion of democracy, if, of course, “advanced democracy” is not just a deception.

The president of the country must be above politics but before that, he must be the president of the entire country. It is totally inconceivable if an “above party politics” personality who is supposed to represent each and every one of the members of this country starts pursuing an approach that might be mistakenly taken as incitement to hatred or enmity against a section of the media or some media people. Is it normal in any country to see a president, and the media that is in allegiance to him, publicly attack a media boss and accuse him and his media establishments of abetting terrorism or engaging in terrorism propaganda?

When these are said or a news magazine publishes a cartoon that was not appreciated by the de facto super president, eyebrows are raised, prosecution orders are issued and media establishments are raided by mobs with the aim and intention of further consolidating the climate of fear in the country and ensuring “disobedient” media bosses and their members are brought into line.

The Turkish media cannot be nobler than the media of any other country. There have been media establishments that have received alms of various forms and quantities from the power dens of the country. Yet, there has always been media bosses and personnel who braved all the adverse conditions and continued to defend not only the ethics of the profession but those norms and values that make mankind and intellectual, thinking, comprehending human beings with some inalienable rights headed by the freedom of thought.

Some 65 journalists, many writers, academics and intellectuals were brutally murdered in the short republican history of this country because of what they said, wrote or stood for. Recently, when a bomb was placed in the garden of the Star Media Group, many journalists could have lost their lives if security people had not discovered it in time and disposed of it. The CEO of the same group survived an assassination attempt. The Doğan Media Group headquarters – which among many other media establish headquarters houses the flagship of Turkish media, the Hürriyet newspaper – was attacked twice by mobs that included a ruling party deputy.

Now, a leading columnist of Hürriyet and a CNNTürk discussion program presenter, Ahmet Hakan, has been injured after four assailants attacked him in front of his home. He was lucky and it was a consolation that unlike other eminent journalists who were made a target and murdered, he survived this dastardly and heinous attack with a broken nose and broken ribs.

The note Hakan sent out while still being treated in hospital was typical of the determination of a large section of the Turkish media not to surrender to efforts aimed at enslaving it. “To those who masterminded the attack, I shall not be deterred but will continue to say and write what I believe is right.”

Obviously, as long as we have a governing understanding that perceives “as terrorists” the media organs and journalists who refuse to enter into a relationship of allegiance, the repression of the media and the suffering of media people will continue. In such an atmosphere and faced with such serious threats, it must be the duty of everyone to condemn without “ifs” and “buts” the use of force and the violation of freedom of thought, as there can be no guarantees at all that anyone might be immune from this systematic enforcement of authoritarianism.