The title of a recent column in Sözcü, one of Turkey's bestselling and favorite newspapers for secular, Kemalist and leftist circles was "Will his removal be bloody or bloodless?" Its writer, Bekir Coşkun, who has been engaged in the media for nearly 50 years, wrote that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be overthrown one way or another, suggesting that the problem was just about whether this downfall would be bloody or bloodless. Here is a quote from the piece:
"We are talking about someone who the whole world knows and ostracizes now... Whom the West's most prestigious newspapers declare ‘dangerous...' Who is portrayed as ‘unlawful and an enemy of democracy' on magazine covers... About the leader of this country whose humor [satire] videos are broadcasted on television... Lastly, European Parliament President [Martin Schulz] could say ‘Our addressee is [Prime Minister Ahmet ] Davutoğlu, not Erdoğan.' [A] rift is closer now... Every time there is a breaking point... We are in those days... Now the point is: How will his removal be? We fuss over a kitten... We cry with a child who has lost his father in distant places when we see him on television. Anyone shedding a tear for others is our dear. But we are facing someone who has proved since June 7 that he will turn the country into a bloodbath in order not to go... Merciless... Full of grudges and hatred... Someone who does not avoid any disaster when his own interests are concerned... We do not want worse days... But the common mind that well knows its addressee continuously asks: ‘Will his removal be bloody or bloodless?' "
Coşkun's way of explaining his desire for Erdoğan's ouster is not particularly subtle. Certainly, however, there are also those who even more explicitly write about this desire. For instance, Metin Münir, who has served as a Turkey representative for The Financial Times for 12 years, wrote an article titled "Do you miss the generals?" for the Turkish T24 online newspaper, which is frequently referred to by foreign journalists. Here is a small section of it:
"We were not aware. But there was only one real opposition party in Turkey. It was the military. Turkey remained without an opposition when the military lost its dominant position in politics... Had the military been as strong as before, Erdoğan would have already been overthrown, the [Justice and Development Party] AK Party would have been closed, many little tin gods from the AK Party would have filled prisons to taste the poison that Can Dündar and Erdem Gül drank. The coast is clear. Erdoğan has the comfort to do and say whatever he wants. And he says and does whatever he wants. Apart from the generals' return to the military headquarters, there is another thing that encourages Erdoğan: A 50 percent voter community that accepts and forgives whatever Erdoğan does. So do you wish the generals had not withdrawn into the military headquarters? I do not."
This is a small example of the freedom of expression and press in Turkey. Many newspapers publish libelous and aggressive headlines, news pieces and columns with the theme of toppling Erdoğan day in and day out. One of the most widespread examples of this is to match the fates of Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, who was hung after the military coup of May 27, 1960. This was seen on the front cover of an issue of the Türk Solu Magazine on which Erdoğan was portrayed with a rope around his neck with the caption saying: "Guy, you are a man to be hung."
Roughly speaking, Erdoğan is a phenomenon that half of Turkey's people love to death, 20 percent view from a balanced perspective and 30 percent hate to death. It seems there is hardly any political debate that is not attributed to him in one way or another. In such an environment, newspapers publish harsh pieces to the same extent and overstep the limit that a normal democracy can allow.
Insulting the president is a constitutional crime in Turkey, as it is in 12 EU countries. Some prosecutors filed court cases on the issue on their own initiatives during former presidents' incumbencies. What makes Erdoğan different in this regard is that he is loved and hated more than all the presidents in Turkey's history. Those who claim that Erdoğan is at the helm of the judiciary can briefly google to see that Erdoğan has lost cases that he opened against many opposition journalists, such as Dündar, and politicians such as Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. One needs to make more profound efforts, go beyond cliches and look at facts to understand Turkey, as with all other countries.