Many journalists working for the dissenting media groups, including Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu media group, were detained by police on December 14. The president of Samanyolu Media Group, Hidayet Karaca and the general editor of Zaman newspaper, Ekrem Dumanli were the most prominent of detained journalists in the operation of persecution of the media. As a reaction to this operation, Turkish citizens living in Canada protested the government’s action.
On December 20, at the initiation of the Anatolian Heritage Federation, a group gathered in front of the Ontario Parliament building to condemn the coup against the Turkish media and to call for freedom of the press. The president of Anatolian Heritage Federation, Saadettin Ozcan made a statement to the press; “We as Turkish-Canadians, along with our Canadian supporters, condemn this operation that censor people’s right to access truthful information and silence the dissenting views of the media.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s Message
On December 15, 2014, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued the following statement regarding the Raids on Turkish Journalists and Media Outlets:
“Canada is concerned by reports of recent government ordered raids against media organizations in which journalists and other media representatives have been arrested in Turkey.
Such actions are contrary to Turkey’s stated commitment to democratic values and respect for human rights and freedoms.
Canada strongly believes that freedom of expression and a free and independent media are fundamental to any democracy. We call on the Turkish Government and President Erdogan to ensure that the Turkish people can exercise their democratic rights without fear of unfounded prosecution.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN TURKEY?
Turkish media has been facing an unprecedented crackdown as the executives of Turkey’s two leading media outlets have been, since Sunday, in custody and are being questioned as part of a governmentorchestrated police operation that has dealt a heavy blow to freedom of the press. Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of Turkey’s highest-selling daily, Zaman, and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca are still in custody at the İstanbul Police Department.
Ekrem Dumanli is the general manager of Zaman Media Group that hosts Zaman Daily, the largest circulating Turkish language daily of Turkey with some 950.000 daily circulation, Cihan News Agency, Cihan TV Network, Aksiyon Newsweekly, Today’s Zaman – the largest circulating English daily of Turkey, Turkish Review – a semiacademic bi-monthly magazine, Irmak TV and Cihan Radio. Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, on the other hand, includes several TV and radio channels, among which are Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, Samanyolu Haber and Burc FM.
Zaman Media Group and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group are unquestionably the largest opposition media groups in Turkey. Detainment of the top journalists in those groups should be read as an attempt to silence all the opposition against the ruling Justice and Development Party and the autocratic regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
This operation started shortly after Parliament passed a law that enabled prosecutors to detain people based on “reasonable suspicion.” The law was approved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday and is approved for the first time. The term “reasonable suspicion” was used in the detainment orders the prosecutors took from Istanbul court. The use of such a pretext for detainment or arrest of media personal is unacceptable by international standards.
Since two major corruption investigations were launched in December of last year, which implicated government ministers and Erdoğan’s inner circle, Erdoğan has declared a “war” against the Hizmet movement, and Fethullah Gulen, the founder of the movement, accusing Hizmet of being behind the corruption investigations. It is believed largely that the current operation against Zaman Media Group and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group is a revenge operation made on the anniversary of last year’s corruption and graft investigations. It is most probable that detainment and arrest of journalists will continue on in stages until the end of the year. An original leak from Erdogan’s inner circles revealed that about 150 journalists were to be arrested.
In a joint statement released on Sunday, Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said the crackdown on Zaman and other media outlets is an “unacceptable attack” against the freedom of the press. “This operation denies the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of and which are the core of reinforced relations,” they said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected criticism from the European Union over a police operation targeting journalists and others on Sunday, saying on Monday that Turkey will deal with its own problems and telling the EU to “mind its own business.”