The dashing of the legend about British journalists
CÜNEYT ÖZDEMİRI had earlier shared with you in detail the legend created about "detained journalists in Britain." Some people had even convinced high-level state elites in Ankara of this lie. The situation of detained journalists in Turkey was supposed to be mitigated by comparing it to the situation of journalists in Britain. However, during our research, we concluded, after talks with officials, that this has come about due to poor translation.
We then looked for the person who had created this legend but were unable to identify that person.
We eventually found out who had been spreading this story from a confession-like column. We had missed the article of Fehmi Koru written under the pseudonym Taha Kıvanç, which was published in the daily Star on Feb. 15.
Fehmi Koru wrote about the detained journalists in Britain, but did not mention that they were released afterwards.
In an article penned on Tuesday, Feb. 19, he wrote that he brought this legend to Turkey’s attention and mentioned that the day my article appeared, on March 14, four more journalists were detained.
Saying that the Hürriyet Daily News had printed my article in English the same day, and adding that British readers had a good laugh about it, he was making fun of me. I could not be as joyful as Fehmi Koru while journalism was in such a terrible state, with journalists being detained for months in prison while waiting to be sentenced.
Let me elaborate on why Fehmi Koru chooses to write about only part of the events.
On the morning of Thursday March 14, four journalists, James Scott, editor of Sunday Mirror, former Sunday Mirror journalists Nick Buckley and Mark Thomas, and former editor of the newspaper Tina Weaver, who is seven months pregnant, were arrested in England as part of “Operation Weeting.” Koru’s statements seem to reflect the truth so far. But what happened after that?
Four of those detained were released on the same day, on condition that they pay a visit to a police station in April. When arrested on a charge in England, you can be released on bail or with a warrant until your case is heard. This is the case as long as you are not deemed a threat to public safety, you do not have the opportunity to run away, you do not threaten the witnesses, or you are not likely to repeat the same offense again. It is sufficient to pay regular visits to the police station until the date of the trial. That is to say, you can be released on the same day of your arrest. And these four journalists were also released, just as their other colleagues were. So, Fehmi Koru did not get lost in translation, he was lost in the course of events.
Coincidentally, the British Parliament was discussing the new press regulation yesterday. After the illegal phone hacking scandal in England, Prime Minister David Cameron initiated the most extensive media investigation in British history in 2011, and assigned Lord Leveson as chief of the investigation. In a report issued last year, it was said that the current supervision of media was not effective and that a new and independent supervising body supported by laws should be established. However, Cameron does not favor the regulation of media by laws. He has some concerns that freedom of press could be harmed. It is still a matter of debate whether these new regulations in England would harm freedom of press or not.
One of the parties in this debate is renowned English actor Hugh Grant, who is known for his poor relations with the paparazzi. He also favors the implementation of Leveson’s report. Hugh Grant also supports the establishment of a supervisory body which he has campaigned for with a petition known as “Hacked Off.” Acclaimed author Salman Rushdie is among the signatories of the petition.
What Koru can’t see
As you can see, the discussions about freedom of press in the Parliament and in public, as well as police operations, are conducted parallel to each other in England. But unlike us, the journalists do not follow these discussions from prisons where they are held awaiting their charges for years.
Fehmi Koru once studied in England with President Abdullah Gül, so he is familiar with English culture. He even describes his days in England as follows: “Our eyes and minds were opened up more when we were there. As soon as we arrived there, we realized the difference between the two communities. Is it because of financial possibilities? The cultural difference? Or religion? We experienced a period of growing wiser with some mind exercises between us. It was also a very helpful period for Gül.”
We cannot know to what extent it helped Gül, but the situation is clear for Fehmi Koru, who struggled to create a problem of arrested journalists in England in order to justify the current condition of arrested journalists in Turkey.
If we insist on laughing at something, we could laugh at that.