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Ertuğrul Özkök - English

God saves me

5 Haziran 2009
He had documents about the personal spending of government deputies, some of whom sent their personal bills to Parliament. All documents are real.

And the former intelligence member wants to sell us this information.

Now, wear my shoes. You are daily Hürriyet'’s editor-in-chief. And you have this information being offered to you. Do you buy it? Or do you think "I should stay away from trouble"?

Paying some money for a piece of information is against our principles. But this is a big story in journalistic aspects. Principles are on one side, a big story and public interest are on the other.

I think I could’ve done this in the following way: First, I could’ve tried to obtain them without paying a penny, or bargain for them.

All right, but can I publish them? I mean, can I stand against the governing party and its deputies? I could’ve done it without a blink. Now, let’s forget about all and speak the truth.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies should relax now. There was no such dossier presented to me.

But the British Daily Telegraph’s editor-in-chief was handed a similar file in recent weeks.

What did he do? He did what I could’ve done, and published them. Since then, the paper’s daily circulation is over 60,000.

Eventually, pro-government parties had to be involved in this. And 14 deputies and four ministers resigned.

The parliamentary majority group leader was removed from office. All this took place within three weeks.

Now, let’s make a small comparison here. What happened to the Daily Telegraph’s editor-in-chief after he published the documents?

He became a big journalist.

Did the government send tax officers after him and fine him 1 billion Sterling?

In pluralist democracies, no politician ever does think about it.

What about us?

We published the court story of the Lighthouse e.V. scandal in Germany. Isn’t exploitation of religion and siphoning money for a charity organization a crime or a sin equally important as sending personal bills to Parliament?

What happened to us? Forget about politicians, even the bureaucrat who is the number one responsible insists on not resigning.

What happened to Hürriyet? On the same day, at the very same hour, seven of our companies were visited by 70 finance inspectors

And the entire world knows the result. Then, let’s find the only difference between the two countries. A shame of democracy and cultural differenceÉ

In conclusion, God saved me and I am not being served documents on deputies or ministers.If I were, I would’ve published them accidentally.

Then, Doğan Holding owner Aydın Doğan and companies would have paid the price.

We published the Lighthouse scandal and our lives turned upside down. For Pete’s sake! What if we have to publish stories about ministers and politicians who are involved in this scandal?

May God save us...



Ertuğrul Özkök is editor-in-chief of daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared yesterday. It was translated into English by the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review's staff.
Yazının devamı...

Dangerous connections

24 Şubat 2009

Soner Gedik, the chief financial officer of the Dogan Media Group, made a statement in defense of the unfair tax levy imposed on the group.

 

Who responded to the statements made by Gedik?

 

Did the Finance Ministry, responsible for imposing the levy, respond?

 

No.

 

It was the deputy group chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who responded to him.

 

Without hesitation that he was acting on behalf of the party, he defended the technicalities of imposing the tax fine.

 

On the other hand, his Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told reporters just the day before that "This is an issue for the Finance Ministry, not us".

 

He says this as the head of Turkey's executive body.

 

But, the deputy group chairman of his party imparts details of the technicalities of imposing the levy while wearing his political cap.

 

This audacious move provides the best evidence to show that this levy was imposed not as a taxation penalty, but as a "political punishment".

 

The party group chairman of the AKP comes forward and declares with brazen clarity that "Yes, we imposed this penalty."

 

The meaning of such an action in any democratic country in this world is this.

 

The ruling AKP is committing the willful murder of democracy.

 

And they have become so reckless that they don't even hide the fact they are committing this murder.

 

This very fact is evidence of a political murder.

 

Regardless of how much the prime minister says, "This is not our issue."

 

His party has been caught red handed yet again.

 

Yazının devamı...

Not a tax fine but a punishment

19 Şubat 2009

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Yazının devamı...

Who won the war in Gaza?

10 Şubat 2009

I didn't check to see how the other newspapers covered it. 

 

An institution, known as the "Jerusalem Media and Communication Center", conducted a survey in both Gaza and the West Bank following to the recent Israeli offensive.

 

It is an Israeli institution.

 

One of the questions asked in the survey was this:

 

"Who won the war in Gaza?"

 

According to the survey results a total of "53.2 percent" of respondents living in the West Bank responded that "Hamas won the war".

 

So, who won the war according to those living in Gaza?

 

Only "35.2 percent" of the respondents living in Gaza answered that "Hamas won the war".

 

Isn't it interesting that there is nearly 20 points difference between the two results?

 

While just one third of those living in the region who personally faced the sorrows of war, say "We won the war", as more than half of those living in the West Bank, where not even a single bomb exploded and where no was child killed, say "Hamas won the war".

 

* * *

 

After seeing these results one automatically thinks and asks the question, what does it mean "to win a war"?

 

Looking at this survey, it is clear that the meaning of "winning a war" is different for everyone.

 

Palestinians reside in both regions.

 

But it is more difficult for a person who has lost a child, their home and lived the bombs exploding, to say: "We won the war".

 

Although the man on the street says, "Anyway, we resisted, and this sacrifice had to be made," the situation changes when it comes to an assessment of the damage.

 

* * *

 

There is another interesting result in the same survey.

 

Palestinians residing in both regions were asked the question:"Who would you support if an election were held today?"

 

Take note of the results:

 

A total of 28 percent of those living in Gaza said they would vote for Hamas, while support for Fatah increased to 33.6 percent.

 

In other words, in Gaza support for Hamas, who "won the war", fell below Fatah.

 

What about the situation in the West Bank?

 

The opposite situation exists there.

 

While support for Hamas rose to 29 percent, it remained at 24 percent for Fatah.

 

In other words, while support for Hamas fell in bombed Gaza, it surpassed Fatah in the West Bank, where not even a single bomb exploded.

 

It is also being said that support for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also increased after he argued on behalf of Hamas in Davos.

 

This means that the Israeli offensive increased the votes of those who were not the target of bomb attacks.

 

But it reduced support for Hamas in Gaza.

 

Some may not trust the results of the survey since it was carried out by an Israeli-based institution.

 

But, we received the results of separate survey conducted by a Palestinian research company.

 

According to that survey, while support for pro-peace Fatah increased to 40.6 percent, it fell to 31 percent for Hamas.

 

This support reportedly rose to 51 percent last November.

 

The figures reveal that a total 56 percent of Palestinians living in Gaza believe that Hamas has drifted down the wrong road.

 

* * *

 

But the most import result is this:

 

A total of 88 percent all Palestinians want a ceasefire and peace.

 

In other words, they want neither the Israeli offensive nor missile attacks from Hamas.

 

How should we evaluate these results?

 

The residents of Gaza who has lost their children and their homes do not support Hamas as much as we do.

 

On the contrary, they say that Hamas is taking the wrong path.

 

It is being said that support for Erdogan, who made that "historic move" is rising in Turkey, while Hamas loses its support in the eyes of its own public.

 

So, whose policy is beneficial and correct?

 

Arab countries such as Egypt who approach the issue with more level-headedness?

 

Or, the policy of Turkey who slammed its fist down on the table at Davos?

 

 

* * *

 

The suffering Gazan public does not view the issue exactly as we do if these surveys reflect the realities.

 

They showed immense bravery.

 

Anyway, aside from them, there is no need for anyone else to write epics about their bravery.

 

It is now time for the power of rhetoric to reveal its impact on thinking.

 

Let's also answer this question sincerely.

 

Who reflects the real sentiment of the Palestinian public? Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, who stands calm and impartial, or Erdogan, who slams his fist on the table in Davos.

 

 

Yazının devamı...

The difference between sect and the people’s newspapers in Turkey

5 Şubat 2009

I will ask the same question of the newspapers today.

 

"How much do newspapers gain from stoking the nation’s pride?"

 

In other words, by how much was the circulation of newspapers effected by this?

 

Or, let me put the question another way:

 

What has Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's storming out of the panel added to the newspapers that applauded his actions with broad coverage and to those who covered it more matter-of-factly?

 

I will address the answer to this question at the end of the article, but first let me mention two objections raised over what I said the ruling Justice and Development Party would gain from the storming out incident.

 

* * *

 

The first objection belongs to Uluc Gurkan, a former deputy of Democratic Leftist Party (DSP).

 

Gurkan opposes the thesis that suggests that the capture and return of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the terrorist PKK organization, led to a 8 percent increase in support for the DSP, to which he says:

 

"There was a serious rise in the DSP's votes in those days. Support for the DSP was slightly above 20 percent according to a survey we conducted two weeks prior to Ocalan's capture. This support rose to nearly 28 percent when Ocalan was captured. But support in the elections was only slightly above 21 percent. In other words, the DSP did not directly benefit from Ocalan's capture."

 

The second objection came from Adil Gur, an executive at A&G Research Company.

 

What he says is this:

 

"Yes you are right, we have sentimental voters; our sentiments go way beyond our logic from time to time."

 

If an election was held last Sunday, the ruling AKP would gain 8-10 percent more support than it otherwise might have. The impact on some voters of such a hot topic dominating the country’s agenda is that it may cause them to forget their day-to-day problems and direct their focus to the AKP."

 

The picture in Turkey ahead of the general elections in July, 2007 is this:

 

AKP support, which was around 44-45 percent in February in 2007, increased to 54-55 percent immediately following the publication of a memorandum on the Turkish army's website.

 

But support declined to its previous levels in the time leading up to the elections and the AKP gained 46.5 percent of the vote.

 

The affect of the memorandum and the 367 debate was around 2-3 percent, according to Gur.

 

What about the situation in the mass media?

 

In no democratic country anywhere in world would a newspaper pose the question of "Why didn't you cover this headline story?" to another.

 

But here in this country the question is often asked.

 

Certain sect-minded journalists accused other newspapers of being "pro-Israeli" for not covering the Davos incident with the same acclaim as they.

 

This incident showed once again that Turkey is a democratic country.

 

* * *

 

Except for a few fanatics and journalists at certain newspapers, some applauded Erdogan with full-page headline stories; however, some of their writers were more dispassionate, and even made critical assessments.

 

And some others were vice versa.

 

So, how has this incident affected the circulation of newspapers?

 

For the enthusiastic supporters of Erdogan, the Star daily sold an additional 11,000 copies on that day, while Vakit sold 9,000, Yeni Safak 7,000, and Tercuman sold an additional 2,000 copies on the same day.

 

However, the circulation of Hurriyet daily and Milliyet daily, which covered the incident in a matter-of-fact way, increased 30,000 and 25,000 respectively.

 

Posta daily, which ran the headline, "Somebody needed to say this", also sold additional 30,000 newspapers, while sales for Sabah daily rose by 30,000 and were up 18,000 for Vatan daily.

 

So, looking at these figures, which of these newspapers "has articulated the public sentiment?"

 

Those that sold an additional 30,000 or those that sold 7,000 more.

 

Or, will we look at the increase in the percentage of those newspapers with a daily circulation of 20,000 but who sold 7,000 more on that day.

  

* * *

 

I think neither of them.

 

Because in democratic countries every newspaper has its own unique reader profile.

 

Also, there is no rule that says a newspaper's stance should be one-hundred-percent inline with the public sentiment in every issue.

 

Newspapers can sometimes march in a completely different direction and they should have the courage to do so.

 

If this was not the case, how is it possible for the death penalty to be removed?

 

Would Ocalan still be in Imrali prison or would he have already been executed?

 

This is the difference between a sect newspaper and a newspaper in a democratic country.

 

An independent newspaper can stand in opposition to the views of its readers.

 

But sect-newspapers can never stand against their sect or community...

 

So, which circulation is higher?

 

The circulation of 20,000-25,000 in the one hand, or the 500,000 on the other...

 

You decide...

 

 

Yazının devamı...

Who will support that particular remark made by the Turkish prime minister

4 Şubat 2009

If so, it is now time to consider things that would relax our minds and our sense of reason.

 

The storming off the stage was done and was said is said.

 

And there is no reason to continue discussion of the issue as being either right or wrong.

 

But the reality remains and the remarks made during this series of events continue to be at the center of discussions.

 

The issue is now, who and how will these remarks be backed up.

 

* * *

 

Let's start with the first one.

 

Erdogan delivered this message to U.S. President Barack Obama ahead of the Davos summit:

 

"Let's redefine terror."

 

Nobody gave the required attention to this remark since it was overshadowed by Davos.

 

I don't know if Erdogan said this remark after an in-depth analysis or if it was said spontaneously during the interview.

 

One thing I do know for sure is he said this sentence in a bid "to determine the position of Hamas again".

 

He made a huge mistake in saying this. Turkey should be the last country to voice such a proposal.

 

If I am not mistaken our official stance since PKK terror began was this:

 

"Terror is terror and no extenuating circumstances should be sought for any terrorist organization."

 

Hamas will not be the sole terrorist organization who will jump at such an opportunity when you start to "redefine terror".

 

No one doubts that the Chechens and the PKK would queue up to benefit from the "Hamas practice".

 

It is beneficial to prepare in advance convincing counter arguments against such a development.

 

How is Hamas not a terror organization but the PKK is?

 

My answer is clear: both are terrorist organizations.

 

* * *

 

The second remark, made during a session in Davos, in which he said, "You know very well how to kill..."

 

Who would back up this very risky remark?

 

Just look at a recent statement of Emine Ayna, the deputy chairman of pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, who continued this remark with a statement to Erdogan in which she said, “You also know all too well how to kill…”

 

And immediately jumping on the band wagon are the Yezidis*, who wrote letter to Obama claiming to be victims of genocide.

 

If you voice such a subjective opinion of others, then others are likely to do the same to you.

 

Therefore, Turkey should back up the prime minister's remarks with a solid thesis.

 

The third point is:

 

Turkey, who is aspires to be "the protector of the destitute," should determine which of the destitute it hopes to protect.

 

Only the Palestinians in Gaza, or of all those who suffer in this world?

 

Then we should also deliver the same message that was sent to Israeli President Shimon Peres, and with the same clarity, to the Sudanese officials that were invited to Turkey three times in the past year, and say "you know even better than Israelis how to kill".

 

This should be done in the name of the hundreds of thousands of children killed there.

 

We should at least be brave enough to tell Hamas, "How wonderful, you are no less than Israel when it comes to killing people," when a suicide bomb attack goes off in the streets of Tel Aviv or a missile is fired from Gaza.

 

* * *

 

One very important point.

 

Erdogan always reiterates the same statement, "We say the same things to Hamas behind closed doors."

 

This is not right.

 

If harsh statements can be made against Israel during a panel sessions broadcast to the entire world, then the same should be done for Hamas.

 

If our pride was overly stroked by Davos, it is now time for us to stroke our minds and sense of reason to excess.

 

 

*Yezidi is a Kurdish religion, its members are primarily Kurdish speaking, and most live in the Mosul region of northern Iraq.

 

Yazının devamı...

Do votes increase 8 pct in Turkey on pride stoking political acts?

3 Şubat 2009

Turkey's military operation* in Cyprus?

 

The capture of PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan?

 

Or the storming out of a session in Davos?

 

Let's look to the following shift in voter support after these three political acts.

 

Public support for deceased former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who led a coalition government during Turkey's decision to launch a military operation in Cyprus in 1974, was at 33.29 percent.

 

Ecevit's party gained 41.39 percent of the vote in the 1977 elections that immediately preceded this operation.

 

He would easily hold the parliamentary majority based on the current election system, had this system existed at that time. But, he was unable to claim to be the ruling party due to past election system.

 

According to these figures, support for his party increased for 8 percent by the second election.

 

Ecevit was once again leading a coalition government in 1999 with 14.64 percent voter support, when Ocalan was captured in Kenya and brought back to Turkey.

 

Ecevit's party gained 22.19 percent the vote in elections that followed, revealing an 8 percent rise, and formed yet another coalition government.

 

The result being:

 

These two political incidents, which are seen as important achievements in Turkish history that greatly stoked the pride of the public, could be the viewed as reason for the 8 percent increase in votes.

 

It is also possible to perceive an increase in "votes of pride", if you take into consideration the deterioration of the ruling party.

 

* * *

 

We are now faced with another incident.

 

Prime Minister Erdogan's storming out the session after delivering his final scathing opinion...

 

Now, it is expected that this move will solidly "transform to votes".

 

This is the expectation of many, including myself.

 

Are these expectations grounded on any scientific data? No.

 

At present it is only a "sentiment"; the real results will be seen in the elections.

 

I am extremely curious what the answer to this question will be:

 

To what extent will the "Davos act" affect support for Erdogan?

 

The reason for my curiosity:

 

Ecevit took back part of Cyprus in 1974 with his decision.

 

This was practically the first addition of land for the Turkish nation that had been losing its lands since the 18th century.

 

The return of Ocalan, was seen as a move to capture a gang leader that was plotting to take Turkish lands.

 

In other words, both incidents were related directly to Turks and Turkey.

 

 

* * *

 

But Erdogan's move in Davos is not related to an issue that interests us directly.

 

Of course, we were all shocked and saddened by the violence in Gaza and showed our unease.

 

But, regardless of how you look at this issue, the problem is not directly related to us.

 

Many innocent children and citizens of various nations are being killed around the world each day.

 

The Darfur example is still present...

 

This is the point that complicates my interest in this.

 

I wonder if Erdogan's action in Davos has stoked our pride more than the other two incidents.

 

And if this is the case, is the cause more psychological or sociological.

 

What is the connection that has lead to such widespread support?

 

Has our "national consciousness" heightened or contracted?

 

Another question is this:

 

I also wonder if support for Erdogan’s reaction is based on a response to the situation in Gaza or is a clear expression of a gradually rising enmity towards the West, which has emerged in recent years.

 

* * *

 

In the end, there are two things I am curious about with regard to the coming bi-elections on March 29.

 

Will the real debates in the community, including the cleaning up and beautification our cities and towns, be of secondary importance as was seen in previous elections?

 

How much of an affect will Davos have on the outcome of the elections if it is the primary debate?

 

Of course there is another issue:

 

Where should we look for the real reason if Erdogan achieves a sizable increase in support?

 

In psychological or sociological factors?

 

In other words, why a win in Davos would bring more votes than victory in Cyprus?

 

Or, is Gaza more important than Cyprus and Turkey's southeastern region?

 

It is an interesting puzzle, isn't it?

 

* Turkey launched a military operation on Cyprus in 1974 using its rights under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee in response to an Athens-backed coup aiming at union with Greece.

 

Yazının devamı...

Turkish PM could turn his Israel reaction into a historic opportunity

2 Şubat 2009

I did not write another one for that article. I refrain from giving knee-jerk reactions during such critical periods.

 

The impact of my initial feelings has passed and I can now see the incident more logically.

 

The moderator of the session was truly appalling. He should have moderated such a critical session more delicately.

 

I have known Israeli President Shimon Peres for years. He always has been the person of "moderacy". However he was extremely tense in the session. His anger increased as he spoke. The Peres I know was gone and a terrible character was sitting there.

 

This gave justification to Erdogan's reaction. Despite this fact, there is one thing on which Peres was right.

 

Three out of the four people in the session was anti-Israeli; and therefore the session was unbalanced.

 

Giving Peres more time to speak after the others spoke for 15 minutes each is acceptable under the principle of objectivity.

 

* * *

When it comes to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, I can understand his reaction to some degree. I did not approve of the physical intervention of the moderator.

 

But I believe that Erdogan went too far with some of his remarks. For example, the remark, "You know very well how to kill," was very harsh.

 

But the thing I am curious of is this: Was the prime minister there to make this theatrical show or was it a spontaneous reaction?

 

I think we should seriously consider either of them.

 

But the real question in my mind is this:

 

What turned his reaction into something that was debated worldwide? His remarks or his reaction in storming out of the session?

 

I think it is the second one.

 

Because almost every single thing he said in the session echoed his previous remarks.

 

If all of us pass judgment by only looking at this one gesture, then we should open debate on other things.

 

I believe the destiny of a country should be drawn by more rational attitudes. Such behavior may be favored by some politicians, who want to make the crowds proud and mobilize them with enthusiasm.

 

But if you look at history, mass action triggered by a theatrical show of anger, has never brought permanent happiness to a nation.

 

If it is not this way, and is instead an expression of anger and injustice, then rational diplomacy should be launched immediately to compensate for this reaction.

 

So if the prime minister is really sincere in leaving the session on an emotional reaction, he should then establish the logical aspect of this policy immediately.

 

* * *

Turkey had passed from "institutional diplomacy" to "personal diplomacy" twice in the last 50 years.

 

The first came when Turgut Ozal adopted a stance of personal diplomacy during the first Gulf War. This time, in the second Gulf War, the Turkish parliament stepped in and rejected abid that would have allowed American troops to enter Iraq via Turkish soil.

 

Now we are seeing another example of "personal diplomacy". We all know that Gaza is Erdogan's personal political matter.

 

We can debate it, but we cannot deny this fact: Such a policy is a part of the charisma of a leader.

 

But there is something else that history has shown us. Institutional wisdom is more cautious than personal wisdom and is more in a country's interests.

 

* * *

At this point, a historic mission awaits Erdogan. Television footage shows that Erdogan has a certain charisma in the region.

 

This could well be turned in to a precious service for Middle East peace. It could be very beneficial if Erdogan gives this message to Hamas:

 

"Stop the rocket fire. End the terror attacks. Accept the existence of Israel. Sit at the table for peace talks."

 

Yes, today Erdogan is the leader who has the biggest right to participate in talks about the situation in the region. Because he showed a reaction that might have severe costs for Turkey in the longer term.

 

Therefore he has the right to expect these steps from Hamas. Then his reaction of storming out of the session will have "a historic meaning".

 

Yazının devamı...