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    Ertugrul Ozkok: Where does Turkey stand, Mr. Prime Minister?

    Hürriyet Haber
    07.10.2008 - 11:12 | Son Güncelleme:

    Let me address a question to all of us, in particular, to the leading members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    I will refer to two incidents below, solely for the purpose of asking the question.

    Last week two articles appeared in the Turkish media.

    The first related to northern Iraq.

    The leader of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, and those close to him, had become embroiled in widespread corruption claims.

    The claims are covered by a newspaper with a daily circulation of 25,000.

    The journalist making the corruption claims is then killed.

    The newspaper’s editor-in-chief  begins to receive threats, fearing for his life, he is unable to leave his home.

    The Barzani administration used fear to block the media from publishing details of corruption.

    The fear they spread is enough to suppress other newspapers.

    * * *

    The second incident was written by Hurriyet columnist Ferai Tinc.

    The European Council published a report related with freedom of the press prepared by European Member of Parliament Wolfgang Wodart.

    The internationally accepted criteria regarding press freedom was written in the report.

    And all countries' parliaments are called to adhere to the criteria, one of which is as follows:

    "Officials from both the state and the government cannot be protected and treated differently from ordinary citizens against criticisms. This cannot be used as an excuse to heighten the seriousness of a crime. Newspapers cannot be closed and journalists cannot be imprisoned for making informed criticisms."

    The clear message for politicians and prime ministers in the report is:

    "You cannot punish a newspaper or a television for publishing news that you didn't like. You cannot misuse the authority awarded to you to suppress and destroy them. You cannot call for a boycott against those newspapers. The only thing you can do is to appear before the court against them."

    Only one parliamentarian from the Turkish delegation spoke on the report and he was from the ruling AKP.

    He said "some of the owners of media companies" were attempting to suppress the government and a decision should also include action to be taken against them.

    What is the issue that this parliamentarian is complaining about?

    Can it be "the news published regarding the Deniz Feneri case?"

    Doesn’t this understanding bring to mind the methods I previously mentioned that are used in northern Iraq?

    * * *

    Now, I want to ask the following questions. What do you think is the location of Turkey in the world?


    The geographical answer: somewhere between northern Iraq and Europe.


    And politically? Do we also stand centrally corresponding with our geography?


    In other words, the government feels uneasy about published corruption reports...


    The prime minister says, "I finger you as a target."


    All of that state's bureaucracy, so called autonomous institutions, move to suppress media owners...

    The only difference, journalists that are not dead and editor-in-chiefs that are free to go to their offices, certain they still hold their posts.

    Will this be our fate? Or will we be a country that fulfills the requirements of full European Union membership?

    Yes, it is time for the government to make a decision.

    Northern Iraq borders our country in the east.

    And the European Union borders us to the west.

    In the same region as northern Iraq where the issue of freedom of the press is being questioned, and the same region where other EU related issues are the subject…

    No model for such a situation exists.

    Both the prime minister and the leader of the main opposition party of Turkey must live together with the free media of this country.

    And the owners of this free media will never be like Ethem Sancak, who sees the prime minister as an idol and publishes whatever he demands in the headlines.



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