Facts and myths about Turkey’s corruption investigations

As Turkey remains focused on a deepening investigation into corruption and bribery claims, Turkish people as well as the national and international media seem lost between perception and reality.

The investigation is often referred to as the biggest in the history of Turkey. Some members of the government as well as the family of the prime minister are allegedly included in the corruption scandal.

This article seeks to set some of the things straight because in the midst of a growing debate, facts can be easily, and often with ill intentions, be mixed with myths.

What follows are mistakes made when reporting on the probe and facts setting the record straight.

1. Myth: The investigation is orchestrated by a “parallel state” and a “gang within the state” in order to sow discord in Turkey.

Fact: Following the first day of the launch of the corruption investigation, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to attribute the probe as a work of the parallel state, in a veiled reference to the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. He said a gang had been nested within the Turkish state in an attempt to topple his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Weirdly enough, while attributing the probe to the Hizmet movement dozens of times, the prime minister and his government members have not shown a tiny shred of evidence to suggest the existence of a parallel state or a gang nested within the state. It is probably the easiest way for the prime minister to find a “scapegoat” to put the blame whenever he feels cornered by accusations of mismanagement, corruption or fraud as he did it several times in the recent past.

During the Gezi Park protests, for example, which began as a peaceful sit-in against a government plan to replace a park in İstanbul’s Taksim Square with a replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks in the summer of 2013 but then erupted into violent clashes with police and spread across the country, the prime minister said an “interest-rate lobby” and “international conspiracy groups” were behind the events. He accused these mysterious entities of speculating in the financial markets during the protests. He did not provide any evidence to back his claims, though.

Furthermore, Gülen rejected any link to the corruption probe in a statement he made in late December.

2. Myth: Foreign powers, the US in particular, contributed to the corruption operation in order to hurt the political and economic stability in the country…

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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