The right to disagree
Turkey’s almighty president declared that he would neither accept nor respect the Constitutional Court’s verdict which paved the way for the “controlled release” (pending trial) of daily Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül last week by a lower court, ending their 92-day imprisonment.
The Constitutional Court verdict underlined that not had their rights been violated, but the two had only been involved in journalism, thus the charges brought against them were inappropriate.
How could the president agree with such a verdict? Was he not that almighty president who publicly accused the two of espionage? Sure he was. Was he not the all-powerful and absolute ruler who publicly said the two would pay a very heavy price? Sure he was. What did the Constitutional Court say? The verdict of the Constitutional Court was indeed rather clear and easy to understand for anyone of average mental capacity: The charges brought against these two journalists were absurd; there is a difference between journalism and spying. These two people are journalists who tried to inform the people about developments by writing news, thus fulfilling the requirement of their profession. Was such a straightforward and rather well formulated lecture in democratic rights and journalism understood by an angry prosecutor? If the prosecutor had some idea of law, or put law aside, the notion of justice, he would not make such a statement in the first place.
The “prosecutor” absolute ruler character in senior positions of state administration has been a serious problem of modern Turkey for some time. Was it not the same character - who later confessed he was deceived by the supporters of the Fethullah Gülen brotherhood - who had declared during the Ergenekon thriller time that he was the prosecutor of that case? Indeed, Dündar and many other liberals of the time were not that vocal in criticizing the “prosecutor role” of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some people died in prison and many served up to six years behind bars until eventually the Constitutional Court stepped in, boldly declared that long prison terms without being sentenced constituted a breach of rights and ordered the release of hundreds of soldiers, ex-soldiers, professors, businessmen, intellectuals and of course journalists. When the almighty “prosecutor” president shifted his war of thrones to the Gülenists, was it not he who engaged in a “corrective” process of restoring the damaged honor and pride of the victims of the Ergenekon thriller?
Some people, somehow, keep on deceiving Erdoğan. Naturally he cannot be wrong. Who could have such a claim?
If some trucks were loaded with some nasty material covered by some foodstuffs and blankets, can there be anything wrong in that for which the president can be asked to give an account for? Of course the president has full unaccountability, except treason to the state, but anyhow can he be held responsible of what’s loaded on some trucks? What if those trucks belonged to a government agency? This state has many agencies, economic enterprises and even banks. Well, what if it was the intelligence agency? Covert operations are undertaken all the time by all states. This is nothing particular to Turkey.
From whatever perspective the issue might be approached, was it normal or abnormal for a government agency to send truckloads of nasty material to some people outside Turkey and engage in a fierce campaign of cover-ups after those trucks were stopped, searched and some photos and video footage of the cargo exposed to the international community? If the state insisted in the first place that these trucks were carrying foodstuffs, medicine, blankets and other such emergency supplies to the Syrian Turkmen minority, why did it object to the cargo of the trucks being exposed? If the state lied to the people about the cargo of those “intelligence trucks” and journalists obtained graphics and information proving some criminality (under international law), were the journalists involved engaged in espionage or fulfilling the requirement of the journalism profession and informing the people about some nasty activities?
The understanding of the president is clear: The media has full freedom as long as he and his government are praised. If the media started to report on nasty undertakings of the government, there can be no such press freedom. Thus, the president declared in all clarity that there can be no limitless press freedom anywhere in the world. He indeed was right. Nowhere in the world can there be limitless freedom in any sphere, including the media. But, nowhere in the free world can there be imprisonment of journalists just because they are involved in journalism in a fashion disapproved of by the rulers of their countries.
The president was as well correct in stressing that the Constitutional Court ruling was not an acquittal for Dündar and Gül. The high court cannot act like a criminal court anyhow. But in its verdict the court stressed in all clarity that the accusations against the two journalists were baseless because they were just fulfilling the requirement of their profession.
After this development, it wouldn’t be prophetic to say Turkey’s agenda will include the “high need” to domesticate the Constitutional Court and find a formula to get rid of the members appointed by former President Abdullah Gül… All but one of the Gül-appointed members voted in favor of the release of the two journalists.