The Taraf daily has performed extraordinarily in the fight against the bureaucratic oligarchy. Its contributions to the process of cleaning up the back alleys of the country cannot be ignored.
However, it appears that it has started to make several errors due to its skyrocketing self-confidence. Add to this overblown self-confidence the drive to prove its independence and it has found itself immersed in a game of “kicking everyone who gets in the way.” This attitude became more and more obvious with the news stories they ran on Tuesday and Wednesday pertaining to recent WikiLeaks controversies concerning the health of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and claims about Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi.
There could be better communication about Prime Minister Erdoğan’s health. The potential turbulence among the public stemming from conflicting reports could be avoided by informing the necessary authorities in advance. Everything has been alright so far, but is it right to run headlines about the prime minister’s health based on rumors? I think such critical matters as health should not make the headlines based on what “one of Stratfor’s sources heard from a friend of the prime minister’s physician.” Although a statement by the physician in response to the leak seems to be maintaining appearances, it far from eliminates the seeds of doubt that have been planted in the minds of the public. One could argue that even the truth or information obtained directly from the people concerned could be disputed, but then it would be necessary to respect Taraf’s reporting preference.
Taraf has been launching such counter attacks in order to refute accusations of being pro-Hizmet (Gülen movement), also referred to as “the community.” The recent leaks proved to be a good opportunity to do this. A full page of conflicting information published by the Taraf daily yesterday reminds one of neo-nationalist rants. Cover the paper’s name and you would take it for a neo-nationalist paper with the headlines it ran. Seeing such titles as “Gülen’s supporters have been infiltrating the state for 40 years,” “Erdoğan deals blow to community by sacking Ali Fuat Yılmazer,” “Having dominated police intelligence, they [the community] now try to dominate MİT [the National Intelligence Organization],” “Justice and Development Party [AKP] does not want to be excessively dependent on Gülen’s supporters” and “Did CIA protect Gülen in Turkic republics?” One might well ask “Is Ergun Poyraz now working for Taraf?”
In particular, the title “[Nedim] Sener and [Ahmet] Şık were arrested because the community wants 150 deputies” is most demonstrative of how Taraf has excelled in this recent hysteria. According to Taraf’s logic, the community should want the president’s office in return for operations against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). The paper already argues that President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu represent the pro-Gülen camp within the AKP. It is a contradiction to argue that the community parted with the AKP in reaction to Israel and the Mavi Marmara attack and then declare that the most fervent supporters of these polices are pro-community. Moreover, according to Taraf, the chief adviser to Davutoğlu, who plans to replace him and who is at odds with him, was also pro-community. Well, I must confess that I am completely at a loss about Taraf’s accounts regarding the community: Two pro-community men are having a dispute and the community says one thing while a pro-community minister says another.
Now, Taraf may try to defend itself saying, “We didn’t do it, we just reported it.” Yet editorial preferences, headlines and published and unpublished materials are not about “just reporting.” Taraf is laying waste to everything that would make it stronger. It also suffers from some of the Turkish media’s typical pitfalls. It expends great effort for the sake of appearing independent, but, paradoxically, these efforts breach its neutrality. What it does with egoistic arrogance undermines its identity.