Last month Nokta ran a story revealing a confidential campaign of the military blacklisting some journalists and press organs, followed by another story in which the excerpts of a diary that allegedly belonged to a former navy commander elaborated details of coup plans to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in 2004.
Instead of looking into the alleged coup's plotters, all retired generals, a prosecutor had chosen to investigate the newsweekly on charges of provoking the people against "military conscription service." The investigation turned into outright harassment on April 13, when some 50 police officers acting on a search warrant from the Bakırköy Prosecutor's Office raided the magazine's building in Bakırköy, taking three consecutive days to complete their investigation, which consisted of copying and duplicating every single document on every computer in the building.
The cover story of this week's Nokta, which came out on Thursday, was titled "We will continue as before, until there is real democracy." Reports said the decision to close the journal was made by its owner, Ayhan Durgun, who traditionally does not interfere with the content of the journal, according to Nokta Editor in Chief Alper Görmüş.
Görmüş, who declined to speak to the press immediately, said he would be making a statement regarding the decision about closure on either Saturday or Monday, but he noted that all work on the magazine's next issue had been halted for now. Görmüş also mentioned the possible transfer of ownership as an option. Meanwhile, Nokta Managing Editor Haşim Akman was quoted as having said the magazine owner had not yet made his ultimate decision on closure on the NTV news channel's website. Akman's statement suggested that the halt in production of the magazine could be only temporary.
The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), which recently confiscated mass-circulation daily Sabah in an effort to recoup the debts its former owner incurred from a failed bank, has fired the daily's Editor in Chief Fatih Altaylı and appointed Sabah columnist and former Editor in Chief Ergun Babahan, also on Friday.
Ragıp Duran, who has spent many years fighting for press freedom in Turkey and who is also a former Nokta journalist, spoke to Today's Zaman shortly after the newsweekly's administrators announced the decision to close down the journal. He referred to Nokta's closure as being an "extremely negative situation."
"This clearly shows that there is no freedom of expression in Turkey," Duran said. "With some of its recent stories, Nokta brought up some very important issues." Duran said the primary responsibility of the press was to question the system in all its aspects before public opinion. Duran said the fact that Nokta decided to close made little difference and said all the pressure, raids and harassment the periodical was subjected to had forced the magazine's owners to make the decision.
“Alleged negativities of the Turkish Armed Forces were opened up to discussion through the subjects it covered, and apparently those in power did not like that,” Duran said. He also pointed out that the attitude partly confirmed that the assertions put forth by Nokta are true. “Although it does not mean that Nokta’s assertions were true for sure, pressuring the magazine instead of disproving the concrete information and documents the magazine printed means something.”
Duran likened harassing a press organ to killing someone simply because you don’t like them. “Closing down a press organ from a certain point of view does not destroy those views; on the contrary, it serves as proof that those views hold truth.”
News articles and the raid
The March 29 issue of Nokta magazine had printed lengthy excerpts from a diary allegedly written by Adm. Özden Örnek, a former commander of the naval forces. According to the diary, some former force commanders had planned two separate coups with the codenames Sarıkız (Blonde Girl) and Ayışığı (Moonlight).
The diary also suggested that the then chief of general staff, retired Gen. Hilmi Özkök, had both verbally opposed initiatives to stage a military takeover and recorded his objections in the military’s written archives. The excerpts were written in the years 2003 and 2004. Meanwhile, current Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt recently stated that the military had no record of such plans in its archives.
In an earlier story also printed in March, the journal had printed an army document categorizing journalists in one of two groups -- “pro” and “anti” military. The military had acknowledged that it had such a categorization but said the document published in Nokta was only a draft.
The military started investigations inside its own organizational structure to find who was responsible for the leak of the press members’ blacklist.