BuLENT – We can’t breathe

We can’t breatheIt was my heartfelt wish to pen an article describing only the heartwarming developments of the year on the last day of 2014. But, unfortunately, 2014 was a year of human, political, legal and social disasters, known for the Soma, Ermenek and Mecidiyeky massacres for Turkey and in which the country moved away from democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms and the civilized world and has grown poorer with a larger income gap between the poor and the rich.

A political clique which views democracy as a system by which the masses they can deceive or persuade can bring them to power has, to our dismay, made great progress in terms of establishing a full-fledged dictatorial regime in Turkey in 2014. Assuming that winning democratic elections gave them the right to do anything including theft, graft and bribery, this democratic clique turned this country into a land where you cannot live or even breathe.

To paraphrase the oft-touted words of Eric Garner, a black man who was shot to death by the US police in the last weeks of 2014, liberal democrats of this country are crying, andquotWe canand#39t breathe.andquotHaving brought a significant portion of the media under his direct or indirect control and turned them into black propaganda machines that incessantly spew lies and slander, Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has undermined freedom of the press and freedom of speech — which are sine qua non prerequisites of democracy — almost completely.

While there are dozens of newspapers and TV channels whose editorial policies are directly shaped by ErdoIan and his cronies, a handful of free media outlets are striving to perform their duties under duress. The boldness with which the ErdoIanian dictatorship detained the top executives of Turkeyand#39s two remaining free media groups, Zaman and Samanyolu, on Dec.

14 by citing a soap opera script, two columns and one news story as an excuse revealed the current level of repression in the country. The ErdoIanian dictatorship has not only been keeping Hidayet Karaca, the general manager of the Samanyolu group, behind bars for 17 days, but is also searching for an excuse to re-arrest Ekrem DumanlI, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper, although he was released after arbitrarily being imprisoned for 120 hours.

In addition to DumanlI, many dissident journalists are trying to perform their duties wondering when their time will come. Starting to behave like the editor-in-chief of the media outlets under his control, specifying which headlines they should run and meddling with the news captions on TV networks after strengthening his one-man regime, ErdoIan is further rushing to act like a prosecutor and judge, hinting at more arrests for journalists.

The parvenu actors of the pro-government media outlets whose raison dand#39andecirctre is to serve the ErdoIanian dictatorship have been reporting that dissident media outlets like the Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV network will be confiscated forcibly. Despite this, ErdoIan is able to shamelessly declare Turkey as the country with the worldand#39s most free mediaDonand#39t be fooled by the fact that I can pen down these sentences.

It is not the freedom of this atmosphere which allows me to call a full-fledged dictator a dictator It is because we can still show the courage to utter these facts even at the expense of paying the price, such as imprisonment, instead of just remaining silent and watching the country turn into an outdoor prison. In a country where threats are tossed around every day, and the judiciary, the legislature and even the executive have been subdued by the ErdoIanian dictatorship, and where the main bulk of the media, businessmen and civil society opt to hail the dictator for their interests, this article and similar ones may be the last cries you might hear from this country.

Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and was placed by Freedom House in the andquotnon-free countryandquot category. In this country, social networking sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook may be shut down at any moment as they have emerged as new venues of expression for democrats and media groups are confiscated to be sold to pro-government businessmen at extremely competitive prices.

In this country, the journalists who fail to act like yes-men and those who dare to voice criticisms are laid off individually or collectively, and the countryand#39s biggest media organs can be raided by the police in live broadcast crackdowns and its executives detained. It is getting harder and harder to breathe in such a country.

As thousands of our colleagues who fail to please the dictator are losing their job with frivolous excuses, hundreds of our colleagues who try to stick to their professional ethics are doing their job against all odds.At a time when police schools and police academies are being shut down and police commissioners are selected from university students who are nominated by the party organization, and when efforts are being made to establish a new police force of 50,000 andquotmilitiasandquot who directly obey ErdoIan, not the rule of law, the state or nation, everyone — not just journalists — who expects respect for diversity and diverse lifestyles is in dangerIn an atmosphere where the Court of Accounts which audits public spending is virtually disabled, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has been turned into a party organ, the judiciary is filled with thousands of lawyers nominated by the party as prosecutors and judges and the higher judiciary is rebuilt as an ordinary party organization andquotby carrying members in trucks and buses to the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State,andquot as Constitutional Court President HaIim KIlI put it, it is impossible to talk about the security of law and judicial security.

A politically corrupt group — whose delinquency was well proven by concrete evidence that became manifest during the graft and bribery scandal of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 and which could have forced the government in any ordinary democratic state governed by the rule of law to resign — passes certain bills, established certain courts and assigned pro-dictatorship prosecutors and judges to them to criminalize even the tiniest dissident group with the arbitrary notion of andquotreasonable doubt.

andquot Now, you may end up under arrest in an arbitrary manner under this andquotreasonable doubtandquot because some words you tweeted are found unacceptable by the dictatorAnd this oppression is not restricted to a handful of bold democrats of Turkey. This trend is, unfortunately, tearing Turkey apart from the civilized world of democracy and the rule of law and is pushing it toward an unknown aenture.

As the country is coming under the hegemony of a despotic group, the narrative about the solution to the Kurdish issue, the treatment of the Alevi issue and the restitution of the rights of non-Muslims remain empty rhetoric that will never be realized. When local businessmen are shifting their investments overseas, it is fanciful to expect foreign businessmen to invest in such a lawless, instable, insecure and unpredictable environment.

In the end, the damage is inflicted on Turkey and the expectations of the people in this country.Unfortunately, 2014 was year of nightmares for Turkey.

I hope 2015 will be a year when the country is able to get rid of the powers that be who undermine democracy and freedoms..

Happy New Year.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman