ErdoIan unites US Senate

On Feb. 2, 88 members from the United States House of Representatives sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter urging him to support media freedom in Turkey.

Mentioning in their letter the detainment of Ekrem DumanlI, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s highest circulation newspaper, and the arrest of Hidayet Karaca, the chief executive of the Samanyolu TV network, on “questionable charges” in December, the congressmen stated in their letter t

On Feb. 2, 88 members from the United States House of Representatives sent Secretary of State John Kerry a letter urging him to support media freedom in Turkey.

Mentioning in their letter the detainment of Ekrem DumanlI, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkeyand#39s highest circulation newspaper, and the arrest of Hidayet Karaca, the chief executive of the Samanyolu TV network, on andldquoquestionable chargesandrdquo in December, the congressmen stated in their letter that they are andldquodeeply concernedandrdquo by the steps taken by the Turkish government to andldquointimidate, arrest and smotherandrdquo critical voices that are a threat to the very democratic principles Turkey claims to respect. President Recep Tayyip ErdoIanand#39s response to the letter by the congressmen was that andldquo80 hired personsandrdquo were being used to andldquoconduct a campaign against Turkey.

andrdquo The pro-government media claimed that those who signed the letter had been bribed.

In an unprecedented letter to Kerry dated March 18, 74 out of 100 US senators from both parties expressed their concern over what they called an andldquoaffront to the basic principles of democracyandrdquo in Turkey and called on Kerry to speak up against violations of press freedom in a NATO ally.

The senators cited the cases of DumanlI and Karaca as instances of a andldquobroader pattern of abuse.andrdquo The State Department has said Kerry would send a response to the letters.

Liberals and democrats in Turkey who are increasingly alarmed by the growing authoritarianism of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government effectively led by ErdoIan highly welcome the letters as an expression of solidarity with embattled journalism in Turkey. The letters are also significant in that they may be triggered by the US Congressand#39s dissatisfaction with Turkeyand#39s recent foreign policies, particularly its Syria policy, and they have united the two parties in the Congress currently divided on many issues of domestic and foreign policy.

In Turkey today where ErdoIan wants to establish a single-man, single-party rule by introducing a andldquoTurkish-styleandrdquo — without any checks-and-balances — form of executive presidency, journalism is going through a life-and-death struggle. The increasingly authoritarian AKP government has brought a large part of the media under strict control.

The Turkish media today finds itself in a situation unseen in any country claiming to be a democracy. ErdoIan, who has been dubbed the andldquobiggest media tycoonandrdquo by the opposition, dominates at least half of the private print and broadcast media, bought by a andldquopoolandrdquo of money set up by contributions coming from big businessmen who are dependent on large public tenders.

The public broadcasting Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), financed by taxes paid by all citizens, has become a propagandist for the government to an extent previously only seen during periods of military rule in the country.

One of the main factors that explain the continued dominance of the AKP in Turkeyand#39s politics is that the media under its control that has turned into an instrument of distorting the facts and spreading disinformation in its favor Turkey had previously never experienced a form of government and media which functioned on the principle of andldquoyou can continue to deceive the people by continuing to repeat the same lies.

andrdquo Pro-government papers do not only carry similar stories with similar headlines, they recently managed to produce 14 columns with the same headings and arguments.

While the government is increasingly resorting to measures to stifle critical voices, the media is deeply polarized, with a small fraction putting up the struggle to keep the profession alive.

Prominent journalist and writer Hasan Cemal, who is this yearand#39s recipient of the Louis M Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism award at Harvard University, rightly summed up the circumstances that Turkish journalism currently finds itself in: andldquoWe are moving from a system of andlsquomilitary bureaucratic tutelageand#39 to a system of andlsquocivilian despotismand#39 And all this is called by his [ErdoIanand#39s] partisans the new Turkey and even a andlsquopeopleand#39s revolutionand#39.andrdquo Cemaland#39s acceptance statement is well worth reading to grasp the condition of journalists in Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman