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Talking Turkey must include facts

Published Sep 11, 2016

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The coverage of Turkey that we’re seeing in the South African media is selective and forgetful of the past, asks Kaan Esener.

Johannesburg - What’s happening in Turkey nowadays attracts a lot of media attention. I would have welcomed all this interest - however, most of it seems to be along the same lines, containing a similar language. Turkey-bashing must be the order of the day.

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I have nothing against criticism. When it is constructive, it can be useful in correcting one’s mistakes.

Unfortunately, the kind that we’re seeing in the South African media is selective and forgetful of the past. Some of it is outright slander.

Likening the Turkish government to the McCarthy era of the US? You do not have to resort to exaggeration to make people listen to you!

I think to claim that no independent media are left in Turkey would be considered a grave insult by journalists who work day and night to report and comment on what is happening in Turkey.

As I said, all this interest can be useful.

Maybe we can have more people listening to what transpired in Turkey. Let’s get our facts right.

Some may have fallen victim to the charm operation that the Gülen movement has activated.

This is the same movement that tried to overthrow a democratically elected government in Turkey - not just by using the military on July 15, but also by using fabricated evidence against the government in December 2013.

It is the disciples of Fetullah Gülen, the man who calls himself “Imam of the Universe”, who killed 241 people during the coup attempt and wounded thousands using lethal military equipment.

It is the same movement that infiltrated and tried to capture the Turkish state to destroy the secular democracy as we know it.

These facts are conveniently put aside. Institutions that are part of the Gülen movement, and unfortunately there are a number of them in South Africa, must be accountable for what transpired in Turkey on July 15 .

Instead we see a media campaign to protect Gülen and to smear Turkey.

Turkey has committed itself to the scrutiny of the most effective human rights protection system, the European Court of Human Rights, and has undertaken to execute fully judgments of this court.

Freedom of expression is one of the most important pillars of a pluralistic democracy.

This is a powerful freedom and there are limits to the exercise of this liberty.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights describes the freedom of expression in two paragraphs. The first paragraph describes the extent of this liberty, and the second specifies the limits. Turkey, in line with the second paragraph, is exercising its duty and obligation to protect the democratic nature of the society, its national security interests, territorial integrity and public safety, to prevent disorder or crime and to protect the reputation and rights of others.

There has been criticism of the actions taken against the Zaman Group and other media houses in Turkey that belong to the Gulen movement.

Concerns are understandable, and Turkey is ready to discuss them through appropriate channels. We remain open to the scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights of all actions taken in this respect.

The Turkish government acted against these media houses because they were the focal point of the integrated action taken against journalists, academicians, bureaucrats and military…officers that the Gülenist Terror Organisation, or Feto, had purged in the first place.

These media outlets were actively involved in lynching persons who opposed them or tried to expose them. If we need to talk about the freedom of the media, why did those who are vocal now not say anything about what happened to Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik?

Journalist Sener prepared a comprehensive study on the assassination of newspaper editor Hrant Dink, revealing the involvement of Feto-affiliated police officers.

In response, the media outlets of Feto - Zaman newspaper was in the lead - mounted a defamation campaign against Sener.

Gulenist police officers, prosecutors and judges arrested Sener. He spent more than a year in prison.

Journalist Sik was researching the infiltration by Gülenists of state institutions.

He faced the same defamation campaign by the Zaman newspaper, was arrested and spent more than a year in prison.

Historian Necip Hablemitolu was carrying out comprehensive research into the Gulen movement. He was murdered while working on a new study of this organisation.

Zubeyir Kindira wrote a book on Feto’s infiltration of the Turkish police. He faced a defamation campaign and had to leave the city where he lived because of death threats.

Haydar Meriç was murdered while writing a book about Gülen.

Article 10 says everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

Article 10 will not prevent states from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

It would be interesting to see the explanation that those defending these media houses, especially the Zaman Group, would provide for the incidents mentioned.

It would also be interesting to hear the Zaman Group’s explanations vis-à-vis the Balyoz and Ergenekon cases, where Gülenist prosecutors and judges purged and imprisoned bright, up-and-coming military officers, using fabricated evidence, to make space for Gülenist officers.

If we are in the business of telling the truth about what is happening in Turkey, we have to take these incidents into consideration and start asking questions about what happened to these academics and journalists.

* Kaan Esener is the Turkish ambassador to South Africa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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