Turkey towards Emergency Rule, escorted by its ‘Genetically Modified Media’

Signs of a merge between militarist nationalism and corrupt political Islam become stronger every day.

If true, Turkey faces its most destructive counter-force and a final test of the resilience of its already shaken and rattled parliamentary system.

With its key state institutions dangerously locked out of functioning and only a single person holding the keys to everything, what emerges out of the current turmoil is the design of a rule based primarily on security concerns and full-scale control of the dissenting parts of the civil society. Behind this move lies, certainly, an overwhelming desire of the single ruler to cling to power, no matter what.

This raises questions about how “operational,” in terms of security and oppression, the current interim government sees itself. Some of the concerns seemed verified when Selami Altınok, minister of interior affairs — with a background in the police — commented on the clashes and killings in the mainly Kurdish southeastern provinces.

“We will be resolute to the very end in our fight against terror,” he said. “We shall not allow an uprising against the Turkish state and its nation. Whenever necessary, we shall very ruthlessly crush their skulls.”

Far more important confirmation about the authoritarianism has been found in a story, published yesterday by the independent Cumhuriyet daily, titled “We are all being watched.” The daily reported that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sent a directive, which Cumhuriyet describes as a “de-facto emergency rule declaration” to the governors of Turkey’s 81 provinces on Aug. 12.

The directive informs that a “Coordination Center of the Prime Ministry” was established in Ankara with subordinate structures in each province. It entitles the police, gendarmerie, national intelligence and prosecutors to engage in mass profiling of citizens and observe the activities of NGOs, platforms, local press, web portals and social media accounts — with weekly reports to Ankara.

This follows President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s call for elected district headmen to act as informers and the authorities promising a price for all those who report suspicions on criminal activities.

Needless to say, these signs are wrapped up in a dense nationalist, revanchist official rhetoric and delivered in harsh statements.

When we put the latest developments of the crackdown on media into this context, the picture becomes even clearer. Up until the detention of three British journalists from Vice News, foreign media operated freely — compared to many other countries in the region — in whatever it desired to cover. No longer. The detention of these colleagues signals a return to the conditions of the 1990s, where harassment, restrictions and even deportations from the mainly Kurdish areas were routine.

Regarding the crippling of the domestic media, the measures of force are also intensifying. The police raid on the headquarters of Koza İpek Holding and its media outlets is a blazing example of the attempts to silence whatever remains of Turkey’s free and independent media, especially its efficient TV channels.

The accusations are outrageous. The search order is filled with blurred presumptions and its main suspicion that the group aiding and abetting a terror organization — about which there is not an indictment or a case — is simply a farce.

Çiğdem Toker, a top investigative reporter from Cumhuriyet, put it best when she summarized the rationale behind the Koza İpek raid:

“Say I am the owner of a foundation. One day I notice in my bank account a huge amount of money, which I wasn’t expecting at all. The money was sent to me by an internationally reputed industrial holding. Then, after investigating, I realize that this company was supposed to send it to a sister company and that the bank made a technical mistake due to glitches in its system. Later correspondence also confirms that the mistake stems from the bank. However, my house is raided after all… I am told that ‘we are not convinced by the bank that it made a mistake, so we decided to search your home because there is a possibility that due to this bank transfer you may have financed terrorist activity.’

As ridiculous as that.

This is the “stick” side of the dealings with the media. On the “carrot” side, the most recent news is that Europe’s second largest oil company, Total, sold its retail network to Demirören Group, which owns dailies Milliyet and Vatan, for 325 million euros.

The Demirören family has been busy these days firing a number of critical journalists and columnists such as Mehveş Evin, Meral Tamer and Kemal Göktaş from its outlets. This is the same proprietor who was reported to have burst into tears when Erdoğan gave him an earbashing over the phone about Milliyet’s scoop about a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) story. This episode was followed by the dismissals of a number of respected journalists two years ago.

Make no mistake about it:

A “genetically modified media” is in the making, in order to lead the way for Turkish authoritarianism, now a merge of militarist nationalism and corrupt political Islam, to be established, for good.

The days of Turkey’s democracy, it seems, are numbered.

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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