YAVUZ – Media clampdown foretold

Media clampdown foretoldTurkey under the rule of President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan has come much closer to a format of despotism, with police raids targeting mainly the media: the Zaman daily and the STV channel.It was an operation given the disguise of andldquothe formation of structures against the sovereignty of the state of the Turkish Republicandrdquo– as stated by the prosecutor — and was clearly foretold.

The alarm came three days ago from a Twitter user writing under the pseudonym of andldquoFuat Avniandrdquo who is obviously well-informed about ErdoIanand#39s inner circle, revealing that a clampdown was in the making and claiming that andldquofear had gripped the rulers due to the anniversary of Dec. 17 and 25 graft probes.

andrdquoThe mysterious source implied that the operation would seek revenge against Zaman and other news outlets regarded by ErdoIan as being part of the andldquoparallel structureandrdquo and declared — without any evidence so far andndash of being the culprits of acts against the state. Once more, the source proved to be right.

If it is true that ErdoIan and his close circle are anxious about the anniversary of the graft probes, it explains why the media groups are on his radar screen as enemies.It is a known fact that both the Zaman and Ipek media groups — with outlets such as newspapers Zaman, Todayand#39s Zaman, the STV channel, the Bugun daily and Bugun TV — have been very bold and consistent in their detailed reporting about the two massive cases of bribery and corruption that have shaken the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for 12 months — along with secular, critical, independent newspapers such as Cumhuriyet and Taraf.

One should take it for granted that they — as the remnants of the media exercising their freedoms in Turkey — will continue to report it.Yet, what makes the media affiliated with the Gulen movement — a faith-based social movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen — targets in ErdoIanand#39s eyes is that they address a huge audience, one that is pious and sensitive about what is moral and what is not.

It has also surfaced lately that ErdoIan and the AKP government seem to have lost more than 10 points in popularity, now at about 37 percent, according to a pollster that prefers to remain anonymous andldquodue to the delicacy of the situation.andrdquoIt is also an open question whether or not there is unity within the government of Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu about the raid.

While some politicians such as AK Party Deputy Chairman Numan KurtulmuI or Health Minister Mehmet MuezzinoIlu defend it, another key figure and a party founder, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent ArIn, signaled otherwise. When asked about the tweets of the whistleblower Avni, ArIn used the expression, andldquoIf true, it is grave.

andrdquoSince last December, ErdoIan has formatted his counter-strategy to the graft probes as a andldquocoup attemptandrdquo against his person. The latest raid also bears signs of the suspects being labeled — on andldquoreasonable suspicionandrdquo (!) — as having been plotting a coup.

Yet, as our colleague from the daily Hurriyet, Taha Akyol, who is a lawyer by profession, reminded us yesterday, the claims have no evidentiary basis in fact. Akyol also quoted Hayati YazIcI, who defended ErdoIan in the famous poem citation case as well as others in the past, who said a while ago, and#39It is very difficult to describe the Dec.

17 and 25 graft probes as coup attempts.andrdquo Not surprisingly, YazIcI, once a key figure in the AKP, had to leave the government, and now is out in the cold.

So much for the context, helping us understand how murky everything has become in todayand#39s Turkey, where the law is under the absolute command of the executive more than ever before.ErdoIan also seems to have calculated that due to the long-term allergies of some ultra-secular segments and the military to the Gulen movement, the operation would have legitimacy and gain approval.

On the contrary, it may backfire: The main opposition, the Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP), is now on the offensive, and is articulate when speaking about the raid. What its leader, Kemal KIlIdaroIlu, said yesterday points to a clear position and an escalation in the coming weeks.

andldquoIt is a process not compatible with those of any democracy,andrdquo he said. andldquoThis process is a coup.

One should not act according to the identity of the underdog. We are on the side of the oppressed.

That journalists would be arrested and TV channels raided is never acceptable to us under any circumstances,andrdquo KIlIdaroIlu said.In a nutshell, yesterdayand#39s events leave no doubt about ErdoIanand#39s steady move toward the destination of autocracy, in which there will be no room for critique, dissent, or accountability.

The raid is, no doubt, a severe blow to what remains of free and independent journalism Soon, we will be left with none.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman