The freedom of the press

Published 20.12.2014 01:22

Concerning the recent operations and investigation initiated against the "parallel structure," the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) chairman, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said it was a "coup against democracy," while the same operation caused quite a stir among European politicians who found the developments alarming. They claimed that Turkey was growing away from the EU, describing the operations as an incredible offensive against the freedom of the press. While doing all this, they particularly underscored the role of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "autocratic tendencies." It is an easy task to comment on this state of excitement with a "principled stance," but first let us seek an answer to a simple question: What is happening? Or rather, what happened?

In a sermon he delivered in April 2009, Fethullah Gülen mentioned the Tahşiyeci group, which was known to very few people until then, saying that the group was "reactionary." The group was a small congregation of some several hundred people who followed the teachings of the Nur Movement - like Gülenists - and were active in and around the city of Muş. They disagreed with Fethullah Gülen's interpretation of Said Nursi's works and criticized the Gülen Movement. The crux of matter, however, was a bit different. There was a competition between the two communities about collecting obligatory alms and the Gülen Movement suppressed the Tahşiye group in this regard. In response to this, the representatives of the Tahşiye group began writing articles and delivering speeches against the Gülen Movement. In the meantime, Gülen's sermon came in April 2009, which was soon followed by a furtive police prosecution of the Tahşiye group.

Things accelerated in January 2010. The Gülen Movement-affiliated daily Zaman, published articles implying the Tahşiye group was affiliation with al-Qaida and the group was overtly portrayed as terrorists in a television series on Samanyolu TV, also affiliated with the Gülen Movement. At this very moment, the police received an anonymous notice letter. As one may guess, the letter suggested that the Tahşiye group was a terrorist group. During police raids of the house of Tahşiye group members, the police seized a smoke grenade, but none of the suspects' fingerprints were found on it. Quite the contrary, it was found that the fingerprints belonged to police officers, who attributed this to wearing torn gloves. Oddly enough, the serial number of the grenade was the same as one that was previously found two times in two different places as part of the Ergenekon investigation.

The Tahşiye case lasted for months with every suspect eventually being acquitted. However, 132 people were detained and 38 of them were imprisoned while many others were jailed for 17 months. The current case was launched following a complaint by one of those previously imprisoned. Meanwhile, some tapes of the internal communications of members of the Gülen Movement were made public. In one of these recordings, for instance, the director of Samanyolu TV asked Gülen for his opinion about a scene in a television series, which was approved by Gülen. This scene was the one in which the Tahşiye group was presented as being terrorists. It is also known by the public that the scenarios of each episode were read to Gülen on the phone.

The Gülen Movement, in a nutshell, attempted to present innocent people as guilty in the eyes of the public by fabricating a crime. It initiated propaganda and had people imprisoned with false evidence. Thus, it ensured its dominance not only around Muş, but also intimidated all religious communities across the country. Everyone acknowledged what they would face when they conflicted with the Gülen Movement. During the entirety of this process, the Gülen Movement exploited the government and the facilities of state.

The present judicial process is addressing this incident. This abuse of the law as a blatant crime. We do not know how conscious members of the press are in this incident. But it is a slim possibility that they are "unconscious," and even if the crime is not proven, we know that it has nothing to do with press freedoms. If they wish, it is not a difficult task for Europeans to comment relying on information.

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