MuMTAZER – Why is Turkey moving away from freedoms?

Why is Turkey moving away from freedoms?It is best to look for an answer in the relationship between economic performance and political stability. The export figures for the last four months indicate that targets were reached. The increased exports will positively affect the country’s growth. Exchange rates are falling after fluctuating for four months. Economic stability requires political stability. Despite the heavy burden of corruption allegations against government officials, there is still political stability. We are faced with the famous question of human history: “Freedoms for security?”It is not without reason that Turkey was categorized as a “Not Free” country for the first time in Freedom House’s 2014 press freedom report. According to the report, after being labeled a “Partly Free” country for the last 15 years, Turkey dropped by six points to 134th place worldwide because of journalists who were fired after the Gezi Park protests, censorship and self-censorship practices and non-transparent media ownership. There should be a reasonable explanation for the fact that Turkey is the only country where the press is not free among 42 European countries.The freedom vs. security paradox manifests itself in the form of a disparity between a “strong economy” and the rule of law and democracy. This is not a spontaneously formed dynamic. Recep Tayyip ErdoIan owes his longstanding power to his successful management of the economy. But this success is not a simple measure of economic performance. ErdoIan’s control over the economy became absolute. He built a stable version of crony capitalism. His control was not limited to the public economy as he employed the state’s economic power instruments to also expand his control over the private sector. In the political sphere, it is still possible to criticize ErdoIan. With Turkey’s established democratic traditions, it is hard for ErdoIan to establish a typical Middle Eastern dictatorship. Yet no one has the courage to raise their objections to the monopoly ErdoIan has created in the economic sphere. ErdoIan’s real power comes from his total control over the economic sphere.Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who is accused under the Dec. 17 graft investigation of being the ringleader of a shady money-laundering and gold-smuggling ring in Turkey established for Iran to dodge sanctions, recently gave an interview to a pro-government daily in an effort to dispute the allegations against him. This interview has a very interesting detail regarding ErdoIan’s economic dictatorship. Zarrab claims the deficit in the balance of payments was a source of concern for the government. The prime minister had commissioned former Economy Minister Zafer aIlayan, also implicated in corruption under the said investigation, to deal with this issue. ErdoIan told aIlayan to arrange for the foreign deficit to be eliminated via Zarrab’s fraudulent trade of gold and food. Zarrab claims he managed to lower this deficit by 15 percent thanks to his fraudulent trading of food.This economic power is at the heart of the Freedom House’s observations about media freedoms. The media ownership system in Turkey forces media bosses to remain silent in the face of the ruling party. These economic instruments help the prime minister to extend his control over the media. Media bosses own banks. The financial sector is under the total control of the prime minister.The prime minister had defended his ban on access to Twitter and YouTube by arguing that the said corporations are engaged in tax evasion in Turkey. This claim is the strongest instrument for exerting economic pressures. He thus sends tax inspectors to dissident bosses. Any businessman can face very high tax fines which may drive him out of business at any moment and these fines are based on flexible financial rules.ErdoIan is not a dictator he cannot become one even if he wants to. Turkey’s rich dynamics will not allow him to become one. But his economic instruments are very effective. His electoral success on March 30 is largely the result of these instruments. People are submissive to ErdoIan’s antagonism toward freedoms because they fear poverty.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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