Mehmet Nihat Ömeroğlu, Turkey’s first constitutional ombudsman, did not cave under pressure.
He was sworn in at Parliament amid protests by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, who held placards with the word “Akbudsman,” referring to the name of the governing Justice and Development party (AKP). The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) also protested by hitting their tables loudly. The oath was met by applause by AKP deputies while the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) watched silently. An editor-in-chief of a mass daily wrote yesterday that he does not “understand” why the election of the ombudsman is so important. He called on his newspaper’s readers to not take anything seriously and to “go entertain yourselves instead.” This adds to the examples of the “quality” of “mainstream” Turkish journalism.
Ahmet Altan, the editor of the Taraf daily, was found “guilty” of libel in a lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Altan, known for his blunt critiques of the ruling power, must now pay him TL 15,000 (approximately $9,000). Oversensitive to the media criticizing his politics, Erdoğan seems to continue with a pattern of filing lawsuits against journalists expressing dissent. Altan wrote ironically that perhaps it is time for him to contemplate selling lemons on the street to collect the amount.
Erdoğan was reported to have lashed out at the media and its owners for siding with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) when he met with AKP deputies to discuss the issue of lifting the immunities of 10 BDP deputies. According to some legal experts, by organizing such a meeting Erdoğan apparently breached the Constitution, as it bans group discussions and decisions on this matter.
Following Erdoğan’ severe criticisms of the TV series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (Magnificent Century), accusing it of distorting the glory of “our ancestors,” a deputy of the AKP is about to present a motion to amend the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) law. Oktay Saral wants a vote for the following amendment to be added as a punitive measure on TV channels: “Historic events and personalities of national value cannot be denigrated, vilified, distorted or depicted differently than they actually are.”
In another development, a court in Ankara decided that “full respect for the supreme leader and incomparable hero, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is irrevocably essential.” The case was between two deputies, Mehmet Metiner from the AKP and Ali Rıza Öztürk of the CHP. The former had filed a lawsuit against the latter for uttering, “You are the fascist, you are the one who dares to vilify Atatürk.” The loud exchange had taken place in Parliament. The court in Ankara thereby once again confirmed that no one should criticize, or mention in pejorative terms, the founder of the republic.
Meanwhile, the Zaman daily had reported that the parliamentary sub-commission of human rights investigating the tragic event at Uludere, in which 34 Kurdish villagers were killed by a bombing by Turkish Air Force planes, will conclude that it is unable to pinpoint who was responsible for ordering the action. The apparent failure of the commission is to be made public soon, with the explanation that the authorities refused to share crucial data about the incident.
Another report highlights the tragic case of 10 prisoners who were killed by nail-studded clubs in 1996 in a prison in Diyarbakır. In the ongoing case, the public prosecutor asked that the cases against the prison guards accused of the murders be dropped on the basis that the statute of limitations had run out.
In a non-related development, Parliament’s draft commission has come closer to reaching an impasse on a new constitution because its members affiliated with the AKP refuse to step back from their proposal of a presidential system. Both the main opposition CHP and the MHP are categorically against it, declaring that the proposal is unacceptable.
If I had more space, I could go on with the tragicomic snapshots of Turkey in December 2012. After a decade, we are still waiting for full-scale democracy; this is what happens when the governing party loses its crucial ability to be the opposition of the very system that rejects it.
Decay creeps back, little by little.