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Ocalan Scoop Stirs Turkish Media

Namik Durukan's scoop in Milliyet about the meeting between the Kurdish deputies and imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has provoked a debate about journalistic ethics and practice, writes Tulin Daloglu.
Kurds take part in a demonstration calling for the release of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Strasbourg, eastern France, February 16, 2013.  REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos (FRANCE - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTR3DVAH

It's long been said: “Don’t kill the messenger,” and since Namik Durukan of Milliyet daily reported what was discussed between imprisoned Kurdistan Worker’s Party leader Abdullah Ocalan and the three members of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party during their visit to Imrali — part of the ruling party’s effort to finding a solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem — he has created a storm of perceptions and reactions to his professionalism.

Although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged on Saturday, March 2, that he'll be criticized for verbally attacking yet another journalist, he could not stop himself. “If this is the way how you make your journalism, damn your journalism,” Erdogan said. “The media is going to say again, 'The prime minister attacked us.' I am saying the truth.”

Truth, however, has always been debatable. So, interestingly enough, Erdogan received support from some in the Turkish media accusing Durukan of trying to derail the peace process with the Kurds.

Huseyin Yayman of Hurriyet daily said on CNNTurk on Monday, March 4: “What Durukan did is no journalism. He aimed to sabotage the process.”

Metehan Demir, the daily’s Ankara representative has been expressing a similar point since the news broke — without slamming Durukan’s journalism, but questioning the motives of those who leaked the news to him. “It’s going to complicate the process tremendously,” he said Monday.

Nuray Mert, known as a critic of Erdogan’s policies and a staunch human-rights advocate, wrote “Another bomb was blasted on the path of the peace process” in her Monday Hurriyet Daily News column, referring to Durukan’s article. Mert recently received criticism as she said the PKK should not be categorized as a “terrorist organization.” “The biggest sabotage on the path of a peaceful resolution is to refuse to recognize the challenges,” she wrote. “The biggest obstacle on the path is not the leaks, but rather the 'leaking politics,' which reveals that we are still a long way from having a serious long-term vision concerning a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem.”

Ahmet Turk, a member of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] was included in the first visit to Imrali but vetoed later from Erdogan that prevented him to be included in the second round of talks with Ocalan as result of his criticism of the ongoing military strikes to the PKK sites; he also denounced Durukan’s journalism. “This can not be accepted as moral,” he said, adding that his party won’t engage in any kind of conspiracy against the government that would lead to the failure of the process. That said, after meeting with Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, on Monday, he said, “The doubt that we’re expressing about this process is that this process has no road map or if it has one, it’s not been announced yet. The confidence in the peace process suffers as Kandil [the PKK military command in Northern Iraq] continues to be bombed, while we try to engage in works that will bring peace.”

Bekir Bozdag, deputy prime minister, however, told journalists on Monday that the process is badly affected by the lack of support from the opposition. “Of course, the Republican People’s Party is not acting sincere. When this process finalizes, CHP and all others will benefit from it,” he said. “In such situation, what CHP leader should do is to stand on the side of the government, and support the process. But unfortunately they prefer to criticize the efforts to gain political advantages.”

Ekrem Dumanli, the chief editor of Zaman daily, questioned why some people prefer to be blind to what Durukan reported. “I do not know why some tend to ignore Abdullah Ocalan’s remarks, which should not be tolerated at all,” he wrote Monday. “Of course, the solution process is important; however, attempting to minimize this issue and turn it into something that can not be criticized could lead to negative results for Turkey.”

According to Durukan’s report in the Feb. 26 Milliyet, Ocalan claimed that once the process succeeds, they will be all free. “No house arrest or amnesty. These will not be necessary. We shall all be free,” Ocalan said. “If I succeed there shall be no KCK [Assembly of Communities of Kurdistan] people in custody. Nor shall there be anyone else in custody. If this does not happen, there will be a people’s war with 50,000 people. Just that everybody should know that we shall not live like we did in the past; nor shall we fight like we did in the past.”

Dumanli appeals to the public that Ocalan’s remarks should also be examined as he finds the PKK leader's "language of peace" dubious. “[W]e should [NOT] ignore the logic, belief and philosophy of the person the state is meeting with. For a long time, Ocalan has been treated as a wise man of civil society, as if he is a man of peace and as if he is a man of reason and wisdom. This is not the case,” he wrote. “Unless his portrait as a man of conciliation as reflected in the letters addressed to the PKK is not considered together with his arrogant attitude towards ... the Justice and Development Party, the National Intelligence Organization were to be misread, the entire nation will be harmed.”

Tulin Daloglu is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has written extensively for various Turkish and American publications, including The New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneThe Middle East TimesForeign PolicyThe Daily Star (Lebanon) and the SAIS Turkey Analyst Report. She also had a regular column at The Washington Times for almost four years.

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