President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that pursuing information and mediating a betrayal are two entirely different things, referring to the sentencing in court of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu for his role in leaking secret documents. Erdoğan also called on CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is continuing his march to Istanbul, to seek justice in local courthouses and not on roads across the country.
President Erdoğan hosted a fast-breaking (iftar) dinner for media representatives at the Huber mansion at Istanbul on Saturday evening. Speaking at the event, he said members of the media have the crucial responsibility of providing accurate information to the public, while emphasizing the importance of fulfilling their duties by respecting impartiality and the ethics of journalism. Erdoğan said throughout the ruling period of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the government has tried to maintain more plurality in terms of the media, adding that today the Turkish media is more colorful, more democratic and more pluralistic despite criticism from some groups that have lost their privileges. "You don't have to speak the same language that I do, nor do you have to share the same ideology as our government; however, I firmly request that you consider the national interests of our country when necessary," he said.
Criticizing Western nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for materializing the issue of jailed journalists to put pressure on Turkey, Erdoğan said the Western perception of freedom of the press in Turkey does not reflect the truth: "Whenever we go abroad, Western media outlets come up with the same argument, claiming there are many detained journalists in Turkey. However, according to figures from our Ministry, only two people out of 177 who identify themselves as journalists are holders of a press card. In addition, one of these persons is currently in jail for murder and the others for their involvement in terrorist organizations," Erdoğan said.
Referring to the recent court decision to sentence main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Berberoğlu to 25 years in jail for his role in leaking secret documents in the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks case, Erdoğan stressed that discussions held over the past few days should be considered within this framework.
Underlining that pursuing the news under the auspices of good journalism and mediating betrayal are two entirely different things, Erdoğan said: "There is no difference between a person who pens headlines and newspaper articles under a terrorist organization's order and one who arms himself and goes into the mountains to engage in armed conflict. Of course,there will be consequences for threatening national security and violating a law in cooperation with members of terrorist organizations."
"It's not considered journalism to participate in an international defamation campaign as a spin doctor. Most particularly, it is never compatible with journalism to target the state and state security with distortions perpetrated by the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ)," Erdoğan added. CHP deputy Berberoğlu is accused of supplying confidential information regarding the country's intelligence service to two journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, in the controversial case. The prosecutor had previously asked for a life sentence for the CHP deputy on charges of helping FETÖ in the espionage case."People who cause a stir should question themselves and their cooperation with FETÖ instead of trying to shift the blame elsewhere. In the scope of the rule of law, no one is untouchable. Those who attack the judiciary when they don't like a decision that is handed down are actually doing the greatest damage to the country," he said.
Referring to the CHP leader's 430-kilometer march from Ankara to Istanbul on Thursday, a day after Berberoğlu was given a prison sentence on espionage charges, Erdoğan stressed that "you [Kılıçdaroğlu] should seek justice in the courthouse and not on the streets."
"As former President [Süleyman] Demirel said, you can't wear out the roads by walking on them. However, if there is an injustice, it's obvious where you [Kılıçdaroğlu] can apply for an appeal. Politicians who have something to say should express themselves in Parliament, not on the roadside," he added.
Emphasizing that destabilizing efforts would not help the country to achieve its goal of becoming stronger and more prosperous, Erdoğan compared the marchers to the July 15 coup plotters.
"What is the difference between you and those who were involved in[the] July 15 [coup attempt]? They [putschists] had F-16 fighters and they attacked with choppers, tanks and artillery. Now you are doing [the same thing] by marching," he said. Erdoğan also warned marchers to avoid any attempt to occupy local highways. "If they [the marchers] try to occupy highways such as the TEM and E-5, the situation could become similar to what we saw on July 15 and, in the midst of the state of emergency, we definitely do not have the luxury of tolerating such attempts," he said.