The media is here, where is the state?
MEHVEŞ EVİNFormer special operations police officer Ayhan Çarkın’s bombardment of confessions continues through the newspapers. With the statement Çarkın gave to daily Radikal a few months ago, the Susurluk file was reopened. However, those former special unit policemen whose names were mentioned in the confessions were recently released.
This time, Çarkın started listing “concrete evidence” regarding unresolved murder cases in letters he has been sending to daily Taraf. “We have buried such and such at this location, we have executed so and so like this…”
Would you take a look at this? Because the darkest incidents to have left their mark on the country’s recent history were not able to be solved through the justice system; the media have almost transformed into an alternative investigative authority.
The malfunctions in the justice system are only tackled as long as they are echoed in the media. Despite this, even those cases receiving the widest media coverage are sometimes forgotten or are made to be forgotten. Sometimes they are time barred. Sometimes, as in Hrant Dink’s case, despite the public support, justice is blatantly butchered.
Smoothed out media
Every day from prisons, letters pour out to columnists, TV commentators and newspapers. Every day, people who were not able to seek justice through the justice system appeal to the media. They are sometimes in confrontation with the state, sometimes with big companies.
Yet the media the victims are appealing to is a smoothed out, intimidated, cowardly and interdependent media: It is a place where auto-censure is now regarded as routine; where opponent journalists and media groups are eliminated; where the prime minister organizes meetings with media bosses; where journalists are arrested as “terrorists”; where printing houses, newspapers and offices of lawyers are raided; a media where even one of the most important news channels in the country transformed into the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) format and canceled its debate shows.
Despite this, how long will we be able to be thankful the media is still influential in certain fields?
Media visit to prevent beating
It is pathetic to accept living in a clogged, biased, unreliable justice system. In an email I received the other day, the situation of the arrested conscientious objectors was depicted as such: “The most effective way to avoid being subject to violence in prisons – at least for a while – is being visited by famous people in the media. They may be left in peace because people think, ‘they are monitoring this one.’” As you can see, the strategy for being protected from torture in prisons is to be monitored by “important” names from the media.
Can such outrageousness be possible? Is it not the state’s duty to provide security for the arrested? The media will indeed investigate, clamp down on cases and raise its voice against unjust trials and practices. However, the question will be, “to what extent,” if the media’s freedom to play the role of the “alternative prosecutor” is deemed proper by one segment but is interpreted as being a “member of a terror organization” by another segment.
While some media organs are trying to use the limited space of freedom carefully, other publishers are incarcerated only because they have reported stories. The last Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) operation, the KCK being the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was directed toward the media. But which media? Özgür Gündem and Dicle News Agency have been raided; its staff has been detained. Dozens of people have been arrested, from ANF and Birgün correspondents, to a photographer from AFP, to the manager of Etik Ajans and a daily Vatan reporter.
It has lost its meaning even to say “sorry to hear what happened” to our colleagues. We hope they will be freed very soon and continue on their way without crediting intimidation policies. The number of journalists in jail may have increased from 66 to 90 with this last operation. At this rate, reporting the monopoly of some “selected journalists.” So let us ask them: Will you be able to assess yourselves and question, “What do I actually think, and up to where?”
Mehveş Evin is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared Dec. 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.