[email protected]

January 27, 2013, Sunday


Imagine a country, a democratic one.

A country where everyone is equal before the eyes of the law. This country has a press as well. In that country, imagine that law enforcement authorities obtained strong evidence suggesting that some members of the army resorted to certain illegal methods to acquire military secrets and sell them to foreign countries. Wouldn't that country's press raise hell about this scandal? Wouldn't this shock the entire country? Certainly, yes.

A running probe into a spy ring in İzmir was made public last week. The hefty volume of the case file is a trove of scandals. In one respect, one is urged to utter “What a shame!” to the army, particularly given their standing in the eyes of the nation. In another, you feel obligated to conclude that “no concessions should be made in purging the bad apples from the army so that it can regain its former glory.”

The interesting bit about this is that some media networks turned a blind eye to this scandal or discredited it by focusing their attention on the trivial parts of the investigation which has the potential to send shockwaves across any other country where the media functions as they should. As a result, readers of certain papers are unable to receive information about the investigation into the spy ring or about the deplorable state of affairs that it revealed.

The situation is serious. An extensive spy ring was established and there are members of the military involved in this ring. This ring identified people who assumed or will assume critical positions within the military and devised shady plots around them. They specifically targeted staff officers by learning about their weaknesses and coming up with plots to lure them into traps. If they weren't able to easily discover exploitable weaknesses of a particular officer, they even resorted to bugging the flats of his family to obtain information for blackmail.

According to the indictment, the spy ring sold the information of a military nature which they obtained to agents of foreign countries. These included such critical information as the routes of troop deployments or the “technical and tactical procedures of F16 jets.” There is an interesting detail in the indictment: The prosecutors worked with the General Staff to confirm the authenticity of the documents and information which they had seized. The General Staff's attitude proves that the matter is very serious and grave.

Naturally, the prosecutors brought a criminal case against the spy ring in connection with the illegal methods which they employed. However, their jurisdiction is only restricted to this. They did not turn the spotlight on those whom these documents were sold to. It is as though they are trying to avert an international scandal. At this point, some wily demagogues rushed in to minimize the magnitude of the scandal by asking: “So what? They obtained information, that is all,” but they cannot cancel out the concrete evidence which the court is working on. The court did not overstep its jurisdiction; it just listed the hair-raising concrete pieces of evidence. And if a person is not shocked after reading that evidence, then s/he is being either unfair or unscrupulous.

As a matter of fact, this attitude of the media networks is not new. They weren't inclined to accept the concrete evidence concerning the criminal cases against Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government -- and the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan. Moreover, they exerted extraordinary efforts to accord protection to the people who were on trial on charges of attempting or conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected government.

This is an oft-voiced assertion: No coup can be staged without the backing of the media. It is certainly true. In this country, all those frequent coups and military interventions were conducted thanks to the support of the media. Unfortunately, there are numerous members of the media who would make the same mistakes today if conditions are ripe for a coup. There is not a single reason for this. Those who scorn the general public for their political preferences, those who believe the country belongs to them and those who seek to gain business benefits from the military tutelage all collaborated to pave the way for an eventual military takeover.

Why do certain media networks feel uneasy about the litigation of military officers who were involved in illegal affairs with complete disregard for the dignity and glory of the army? No answer has been given. None will be given in the future. Sometimes they say: “What do you suggest? We, too, are against anti-democratic practices and illegal affairs.” Whenever such self-defensive remarks are made, I tend to nurture some hope. This applies to the large majority as well. Indeed, improving democracy is not a task specific to politicians. It is the duty of the media to correctly analyze and report on the concrete evidence from any investigation. Otherwise, spies, secret agents and coup perpetrators will swarm the country.


Is it so hard to look in the dictionary?

Birgül Ayman Güler, an İzmir deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), recently made some scandalous remarks while addressing Parliament. “The Turkish nation is not equal to Kurdish nationality,” she said. Some of her fellow deputies who filled in the gaps of this makeshift sentence applauded her enthusiastically. Apparently, some CHP members lent support to this unusual assertion about “equality.” It was a sentence uttered in panic and perhaps in anger. This gave the senior ranks of the CHP and Güler ample room to maneuver and rectify the blunder. But that did not happen.

Journalist Taha Akyol made a very fitting observation: “While the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] movement places emphasis on ‘equality' rather than ‘democracy,' it is an unfortunate error for a CHP deputy to raise an objection to ‘equality'.” This error, identified by Akyol, should be corrected so that the matter can be discussed with an emphasis on democracy.

In response to the never-ending reactions, Güler made another statement. This statement too was impromptu and made without any preparations. Even before listening to what she said, I said to myself, “This deputy will create much trouble for the CHP.” Indeed, if you are the leading actor of a very critical and heated debate, then you must be prepared well in advance. If you speak without any preparation, then your words may fail to convey your message and you may end up not being able to correctly articulate your concepts. And this was exactly what happened. Güler made another blunder as she spoke.

She insisted that she correctly used the phrase “Turkish nation.” But she should have consulted a dictionary. As a matter of fact, she was wrong in using both phrases: “Turkish nation” and “Kurdish nationality.” There are numerous words and concepts that can be used in this context, including nation, nationality, nationhood, group solidarity (asabiyyah), national elements, people, race, branch, ethnicity, etc., and each of them is semantically different from the other.

But laziness in using dictionaries is not unique to this CHP deputy. How many journalists/authors have dictionaries on their tables? How many of them consult these frequently? Not many, I would imagine. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently used the term “asabiyyah” while speaking about racism and a pathologically anti-government paper mistook it for “frustration.” A dictionary is the honor of a nation, Cemil Meriç used to say. Honor for what? Reflection, of course.

Previous articles of the columnist