Since last Friday I have talked with many journalists – so many that I have lost count. I have talked to people from major and minor media outlets. From newspapers, radio, television and online publications. On the evening of July 20 I received a mail from a journalist. This is nothing unusual or new. I have received may mails. But I was surprised by the tone. I share the correspondence below:
"Dear Ms Kandur,
S...r passed on your details, and suggested that you are available for comment. openDemocracy would like to ask you the following questions:
(i) Over 60,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested in the last 72 hours. What evidence is there that the 35,000 sacked teachers (15,000 state, 21,000 private) are part of a Gulenist 'parallel state?'
(ii) In light of the government's recent crackdown on journalists, is the AKP still committed to democracy? Or would it prefer that Erdoğan rule unchallenged, backed by organised Islamist support?
(iii) Is the AKP committed to an ongoing civil war in the south? How long will the Turkish government continue to deny Kurds their national autonomy?
(iv) How does the AKP government plan to combat the growing threat of ISIS in Turkey?
(v) What plans does AKP have for the protection of minority rights and minority voices?
Benjamin Ramm | Editor-at-large"
openDemocracy | Free thinking for the world
Me to Benjamin
In the spirit of understanding and cooperation I kindly ask you to rephrase these questions in an objective manner that is in keeping with the profession of journalism.
If you are able to do so, then I will be more than happy to answer any and all questions that you put to me.
Failing a revised set of questions, I will post them on the internet so that the objectivity of Open Democracy is displayed to the entire world.
I will also inform S...r and his colleagues of the contents of this mail.
If I do not receive a reply from you in the next 8 hours, I will post this mail on the internet.
There appears to be a misunderstanding. openDemocracy is committed to holding power to account, and offers a platform for a wide range of voices - from Islamist conservatives to Kurdish communists. You can read the breadth of our content about Turkey here: https://opendemocracy.net/countries/turkey
Are you afraid to answer these questions? Are you unable to? Or do you insist that journalists cower in the face of your power? Perhaps you should try to persuade through the force of argument rather than through threats & intimidation. (I have copied in S....r, so he is witness to your reply).
I am neither afraid to nor unable to. I will answer them. If you are truly committed to the true nature of journalism, then you will rephrase them objectively. If not, I will answer them, but online, where all can see the true nature of your commitment.
What I wrote to you is not a threat. If you see publishing things online as a threat, then this is worrying.
Rather what I am kindly and politely suggesting is that rather than bullying people by asking them to answer slanted and twisted questions you should ask questions that will lead to the truth.
I was going to copy S…r in from the beginning , but thought to give you the benefit of doubt. Thank you for including him
I, AK Party and Turkey have nothing to hide. We are ready to answer all questions at all times. However, we would rather answer questions that are sincere and aimed at discovering the true nature of events.
"openDemocracy is committed to plurality, transparency and accountability, not objectivity. We allow our readers to make up their minds, based on the quality of the arguments presented to them. If you arguments are strong, they will be persuasive; if not, they will not.
I understand that you are used to a more deferential media culture. But because a state of emergency has been called, amid a huge crackdown and curtailment of civil liberties, it is incumbent to me to ask the questions that others (imprisoned, arrested or silenced) cannot.
I look forward to your reply."
Me to Benjamin,
How can your readers make up their own minds when your questions already direct them to the conclusions you want to reach? Objectivity goes hand in hand with plurality, transparency and accountability.
As a Brit brought up in America, I would think that the media culture I am accustomed to is no different from that to which you should be accustomed to. I ask you once again to rephrase the questions to make them objective. If they are objective the truth will come out,. My arguments, if weak, will be weak.
There is no point in continuing this discussion. It is clear that you want your questions answered.
I will answer them.
But I will not send the answers to you so you can chop and change them around to suit your ends. I will post them online.
So, let's review these questions and answer those that are answerable (even if slanted) and rewrite those that are unanswerable.
"(i) Over 60,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested in the last 72 hours. What evidence is there that the 35,000 sacked teachers (15,000 state, 21,000 private) are part of a Gulenist 'parallel state'?"
This question is based on totally false premises; to even begin to address it we should split it into two. The first sentence will be corrected and answered in section (A). The second sentence will be answered in section (B).
A) Sixty-thousand Turkish citizens have not been arrested. Many have been suspended from their jobs; this figure is less than 60,000. Confusing suspension and/or dismissal from employment with arrest is a serious matter. A journalist must be interested in the truth. The due process of the law will be implemented for those who have been arrested or taken in for questioning. Due process is a principle enshrined in the Turkish Constitution. As an example, during the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases there was respect for due process. As a result, when the evidence fabricated by the Gülenists came to light, the accused were released.
B) The people who have been taken in for questioning were already being monitored by intelligence and security services for their close involvement with the Gülenists. The documents and lists that were found upon the perpetrators or in their offices provided many names and confirmed the findings of prior investigations.
"(ii) In light of the government's recent crackdown on journalists, is the AKP still committed to democracy? Or would it prefer that Erdogan rule unchallenged, backed by organised Islamist support?"
Again, (A) and (B). This question, as every other question in this series, is highly loaded. In the spirit of offering a helping hand, may I recommend that you look at the following site https//en.wikipedia.org//wiki/Loaded_question.
A) The government has not cracked down on anyone or anything. Preparing arrest warrants is the job of the public prosecutors. One of the primary aims of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has and always will be the facilitation of the growth of democracy in Turkey. There seems to be a confusion here. In Turkey, as in many other modern democracies, the judiciary is separate from the government. In Turkey however, unfortunately the judiciary has not been operating in an independent manner. As has been stated many times in many places, the Gülenists set out to infiltrate the police, the military, the judiciary, the bureaucracy and educational institutions. Over the past three years there have been drastic reorganizations of the police force. If one compares how the police performed on the night of July 15, when the police heroically and stoically stood between the people and the traitors with how they behaved in Gezi Park, it is clear that these reorganizations and trainings have had a great effect. Turkey has a police force that performs better than those in many European countries or American states. In short, the AK Party has not wavered from its commitment to bringing full and unhindered democracy to Turkey. The Democratization Package introduced in 2014 was just the beginning. But first peace must be established. It is worrying how little information you have on the country you are asking information about.
B) This is an odd question. It is not clear exactly what you are referring to by organised Islamist support, but the innuendo is unescapable. The thinly disguised Islamophobia in this question is below the normal standards of journalism. But I promised to answer the questions. So, no, the AK Party does not want the rule of any person or institutions to go unchallenged. Challenges and responses to these challenges is essential to the very nature of democracy.
"(iii) Is the AKP party committed to an ongoing civil war in the south? How long will the Turkish government continue to deny Kurds their national autonomy?"
Again (A) and (B)
A) There is no civil war in Turkey. However, perhaps you are thinking of the terrorist activities carried out by the PKK in the southeast (again, accuracy is a journalist's best friend. The south is where the Brits like to buy villas and hang out.
There have been terrorist activities by the PKK, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. The PKK dug up roads, filled them with explosives and tarmacked them over. They have bombed schools. They have targeted hospitals. They have killed policemen sleeping in their beds. Turkey is in the unique position of needing armored ambulances. Fake calls to ambulance services would be made by the PKK, and the ambulance, with doctors and nurses inside, would be blown up. Due to these and other PKK actions (there is a great deal of information in back issues of Daily Sabah; hey, I have even written about the PKK a few times) many people have fled from the southeast to the west. The vast majority of these people, if you ask them, will tell you they are fleeing the oppression of the PKK.
At the same time, it should be mentioned that Turkey has no issue with Kurds as an ethnic group. The PKK does not represent all ethnic Kurds in Turkey. It has been estimated at representing between 10 and 20 percent of the ethnic Kurds. But their heavy handed methods (again, covered often in Daily Sabah), kidnapping adolescents to serve in the army, threatening and menacing the population are well recognized. Again, allow me to recommend a good journalist tactic. Go to the region, talk to the people. I did. It makes a difference.
The Turkish government is committed to establishing peace in the southeast so that all citizens of the Republic of Turkey can live in harmony and prosperity.
B) The Turkish Republic is home to a large number of minorities and ethnicities. All minorities have equal rights. There is still some way to go in ensuring that the citizens of the southeast can live in peace and prosperity, but the AK Party is committed to this. When first elected to government the nearly 15-year state of emergency in the southeast was lifted. Peace talks were started. It was the PKK that unilaterally broke the peace talks by murdering police officers while they were sleeping or taking money out of an ATM or just having a day off.
"(iv) How does the AKP government plan to combat the growing threat of ISIS in Turkey?"
A) I was unaware that the ISIS (DAESH) threat is in Turkey; perhaps you are suggesting that Turkey is the only country threatened by DAESH? If so, please inform the rest of Europe about that. They will be most relieved.
If you ask the question "Considering the growing global threat of ISIS [DAESH] today, in what way will the Turkish government increase its strategies for combating terrorism," then that is a question that will provide information.
Turkey is facing threats from three terrorist organizations, i.e. DAESH, the PKK and the Gülenists. Turkey has made important contributions to preventing the great destruction wreaked by DAESH, identifying potential terrorists and returning them to their country of origin. The high security of Atatürk Airport prevented the heinous attacks carried out by DAESH from creating greater losses. The Turkish government is cooperating fully with European intelligence services in this matter.
"(v) What plans does AKP have for the protection of minority rights and minority voices?"
The AK Party has been fully committed to the protection of minority rights and voices. The lifting of the ban on the Kurdish language(s), the establishment of institutes of Kurdology, instruction in schools in Kurdish are all part of this. Churches or other places of worship have been restored and returned to the relevant community, or new places of worship have been constructed. Measures for the Alevi community have been taken. However, the threefold terrorist threat has meant that unfortunately further undertakings in this area have to be postponed.