Erdogan Bashes Turkish Media For Questioning Jet Affair in Syria

Article Summary
In a recent speech, the Turkish prime minister accused columnists who questioned the government’s role in the downed fighter-jet affair of being “reckless" and not real “children of the country.” Ozgur Mumcu writes that insulting journalists and accusing them of being compromised is unfitting for a democratic leader.

In democratic countries, you do not insult those who ask questions. Rather than cursing at them, you are supposed to provide them with answers.

It is difficult to write on another topic while the crisis in Syria rages on. I wish that I hadn’t written about the international legal implications of the jet affair, since shortly afterward I found myself being thrashed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech aired live on international media outlets. I still hope that the prime minister and his advisers are not readers of this column, so that I can get away with it.

Some columnists, such as myself, wrote articles that questioned the mission of the downed F-4 fighter jet and Turkey’s policy on Syria. While there were not many of us, we occupied a significant portion of the prime minister’s speech to the international community. Erdogan said: “As politicians, we cannot grovel like you. Apart from some exceptions, your pens are sold to certain quarters. However, this political will commits itself to the people and to God.”

It didn’t end there. Treating us (the columnists) as if we were Crusaders, he added: “I see there are columnists who aim to divert the issue. They are merciless and reckless. It is as if they were not children of this country.”

This was his reaction to those who dared to ask a few questions, labelling them merciless sycophants and collaborators. If the prime minister had made the radar records public after the incident, nobody would have claimed that the jet was shot down over Syrian airspace. In any case, even those who wrote about this issue from this perspective always prefaced their articles with the disclaimer: “If the Syrian claims are true...”

No columnist claimed that Syria was 100% right in its accusations — they were simply raising questions regarding the jet’s true missions. In democracies, you don’t insult the people, you answer to them.

To be a columnist does not mean blindly supporting the policies of the prime minister. Our aim should be to inform the public so that the government can be held accountable. One regime that lacks this kind of public accountability is that of Bashar al-Assad.

The Assad regime is brutal and heinous, and many reasonable people have a common desire to see it fall. If you accuse those who have different views on how this should take place, or on what Turkey’s role in this process should be, as having been "bought out," then how can we discuss the issue, Mr. Prime Minister? This country’s public opinion is not limited to that which supports your party.

To condemn the columnists whose views you dislike is to wish for a second-class democracy.

Turkey’s new TV broadcasting law offers an even clearer picture of the situation: “The prime minister, or any minister assigned by the prime minister, can impose a temporary ban on broadcasting in circumstances that endanger national security or public order.” 

Can someone who accuses journalists of not belonging to this country, being bought and serving foreign actors really be a prime minister of a democratic state?

Found in: turkish fighter jet affair, syrian crisis, syrian, media freedom in turkey, media, erdogan, democracy in turkey, democracy

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