Tag Archives: election

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-27

1 – Clampdown on expression – Meral Tutcali, a second year university student, has received a suspended sentence for retweeting a satirical article about the governor of the province of Adana from Zaytung, Turkey’s equivalent of the Onion. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report that members of the press were prevented from attending a meeting with Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan, apparently at the behest of her security team. Lawyer Umut Kiliç was arrested after a job interview for a judge position on the grounds that he insulted Erdoğan by calling the president a fascist, leading other lawyers to object. The European Parliament criticized Turkey for its crackdown on independent media at a seminar on Wednesday. One of the invitees for this seminar, Zaman newspaper editor Ekrem Dumanli, had to participate via video stream because he is currently under investigation on charges of terrorism. Gültekin Avci, a former prosecutor, is facing a life sentence for retweeting audio that implicates President Erdoğan and his son Bilal in corruption, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman. A number of artists have been sued for releasing a video commemorating the death of teen Berkin Elvan, who was shot by police during the Gezi Park protests and died months later. Today’s Zaman reports on the effects of new “penal courts of peace” that were established by the AK-Party and appear to be used to censor critical media. The same paper reports on the fate of professor Sedat Laçiner, an AK-Party critic who has been asked to stop writing for news site internethaber.com and who was removed from his position as rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University by President Erdoğan.

2 – Election roundup – President Erdoğan has released a video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli (referred to as Çanakkale in Turkey), which many are taking as an AK-Party election ad. An ad by the president for such a purpose would be illegal both on the grounds that the president is supposed to be impartial and that use of the flag and religion for political purposes are banned, but there is a clear history of both Erdogan and the AK-Party ignoring both of these grounds (Touched on here and, more recently, here). Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman cover the ad.

Government broadcaster TRT provided 1:20 and 1:17 of coverage for the manifestos of the AK-Party and main opposition CHP, respectively, while giving only 15 minutes to the HDP, a party on the border of passing the 10% threshold to enter parliament. The AK-Party-appointed governor of Erzincan province, Süleyman Kahraman, denied the HDP a permit for an election rally on April 25th, with the excuse that the AKP had the same public square reserved for the 26th. Abit Nasiroğlu, son of a former AK-Party deputy, has been killed in an attack on AK-Party headquarters in Batman by unidentified attackers, while HDP offices in Yalova have also been attacked with gunfire, though nobody was injured.

3 – Turkey, Armenia, and the world –  Both President Erdoğan and the Turkish Foreign Ministry have reacted strongly to proclamations from other nations that the massacres and mass deportation of Armenians 100 years ago, which are commemorated on 24 April, constitute a genocide. The withdrawal of Turkish ambassadors from the Vatican and Austria in the wake of genocide claims brings to seven the number of countries from which ambassadors have been removed in recent years. On the local front, a nationalist group left threatening wreaths in front of Armenian newspaper Agos, where journalist Hrant Dink was editor and where he was murdered in 2007. Hürriyet Daily News reports that students marching to commemorate genocide at Istanbul Technical University were attacked by police and that academics from Bilgi University released a statement against that university’s choice to cancel a conference bearing the word “genocide” in its title.

4 – Film festivals – In the wake of Istanbul Film Festival’s pulling of Bakur (North), a documentary about PKK guerrillas from its lineup under pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the Ankara Film Festival, which also pulled Bakur and a number of other films, has started with a much-reduced lineup of films and competitions. Meanwhile, while the MOCT has yet to comment on charges of censorship, it has opened the 7th iteration of its own Turkish Film Festival in Sarajevo, with a host of nationalist and popular films, as well as Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once upon a time in Anatolia) by Turkish auteur Nuri Bilgi Ceylan. The IŞÇI (Workers) Film Festival, taking place in Istanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakir, and Izmir starting on 1 May, has released its program for the year.

5 – TV and cinema – Süleyha Kurtuluş, the final manager of Istanbul’s historical Emek Cinema, has for the first time released a statement on the events that led to the cinema’s demolition despite massive protests, saying that, contrary to accusations by Levent Eyüboğlu, a partner in the project that’s been built in Emek’s place, she never asked for that firm’s help or handed over the keys to the building. Serdar Akar’s Kara Kutu (Black Box) series, which was airing on Kanal D, has been cancelled due to poor ratings. It is a Pana Film production and it recently received a 700,000TL fine from RTÜK for “advertising beer” as part of everyday life. FOX has revealed that its 7-years-running series Unutma Beni (Forget Me) will end this year after more than 1,450 episodes.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-13

1 – Mixed messages on the Kurdish situation pre-election – The AK-Party’s shifting stance on the Kurdish situation became even more confusing this weekend after a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı. Details on the reasons for the clash are unclear, as both sides have blamed the other, and the number of casualties involved is also in dispute, but at least two people (at least one of them a PKK soldier) have died and a number of Turkish soldiers were injured. President Erdoğan and PM Davutoğlu blamed the PKK and attempted to implicate the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) after the incident, but HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the operation was staged, and pointed out that it was HDP members who went to rescue the injured soldiers, sharing links to photo and video on social media to back this claim up. The TSK released a statement thanking the civilians who helped the soldiers today, to some degree supporting Demirtaş’s claim.

This situation puts a fragile peace process in question. For the past three years, the AK-Party had been making moves towards peace, negotiating with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and conceding to some aspects on language rights and regional autonomy desired by many Kurds in Turkey’s southeast region, often called Kurdistan. More recently, however, President Erdoğan, who is nominally unaffiliated with a party but still overtly acts as the head of the AK-Party, reversed his stance on the so-called “Kurdish opening” simultaneous with the celebration of Newroz, the spring holiday most closely identified with Kurds. This was interpreted by many as Erdoğan’s move to coax nationalist voters, known for their anti-Kurdish stance, in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections. Numerous polls show the AK-Party losing ground and the HDP moving towards the 10% threshold necessary to enter parliament as a party, and this likely has Erdoğan very worried. Up until now, HDP members have been running as independent candidates since they were not likely to pass the 10% threshold, but this situation greatly decreases their representation in parliament while simultaneously increasing that of the AK-Party. So the political calculation in Turkey currently hinges on the fate of the HDP, and the AK-Party has every incentive to prevent their passing the threshold.

Given these circumstances, the timing of the Ağrı conflict is interesting, because it is likely to damage the HDP’s political image and improve that of the AK-Party. The TSK’s statement, however, might change this calculus.

Potentially linked to these events is the Istanbul Film Festival’s choice, under direct pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Cinema Directorate, to cancel the screening of a documentary filmed in the PKK camps. Bakur (North) was scheduled to be shown on 12 April but, hours before the screening, the IFF announced its cancellation. Numerous Turkish filmmakers involved in the festival held an impromptu meeting after this and decided to withdraw their films from the festival, calling into question whether key competitions will continue. Specifically, 7 out of 9 films in the national feature and 9 our of 13 films in the national documentary competitions signed a statement withdrawing their films.

2 – Media wars – Pre-election tensions are also playing out in mainstream media as pro-government media sources have made a number of moves to attack non-aligned media. Perhaps most notably, state run (and theoretically impartial) broadcaster TRT has refused to run commercials for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), giving as rationale the fact that the commercials criticize the ruling government. At the same time, pro-AK-Party media outlets Yeni Şafak and ATV have both published claims against the Doğan Media Group, charging it with support of terrorism in line with similar statements by Erdoğan. Doğan has filed slander charges against Yeni Şafak in response. Yeni Şafak also filed a story claiming that Turkey’s second President, Ismet İnönü, was responsible for having Mustafal Kemal Atatürk killed with poison. These claims and their alleged documentation have been the source of ridicule in other media, and columnist Mustafa Akyol commented on why such claims would come out now.

3 – Social media bans and reactions – Reactions to last week’s government ban of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have begun to mount. Early in the week there was a threat to block Google as well, but this has not yet been executed, and the social media sites are now back online. These bans have not gone unanswered, as Today’s Zaman reports:

Two Turkish academics on Tuesday appealed a court order that allowed authorities to block access to Twitter and YouTube for several hours this week, a crackdown they say reflects Ankara’s growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Hürriyet Daily News reports on international critique of the ban:

Bans on social media networks are “not appropriate” according to basic democratic standards, said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who held meetings with a number of senior officials in Turkey, adding that he expected “meaningful answers” from Ankara on the issue.

Despite such reactions, threats against social media may actually be on the rise, as Today’s Zaman reports:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a tendency to put everything he sees as a threat against his authority in the country’s “National Security Strategy Concept Paper” (MGSB) — often referred to as the “Red Book” — may soon be adding social media platforms, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Thursday.

4 – Censorship, trials, and lawsuits – The weekly round-up of lawsuits and trials for those deemed to have insulted the AK-Party continues, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

A local court in Ankara has ordered main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras in compensation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “insulting” him.

Erdoğan was not alone in his actions this week, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has filed a new legal complaint against Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş over a blog post, saying the piece, an English version of which was published as a Today’s Zaman column, insulted him.

Some of the charges are more serious than insults against individuals, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Turkish prosecutors seek up to four and a half years in prison for two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, who write for the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily, over featuring a front cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine which depicted Prophet Muhammad in their pieces.

5 – AK-Party’s Neo-Ottoman overtures – Finally, the AK-Party continues to employ Ottoman pageantry in political appearances. As Hürriyet Daily News notes, this week’s ceremonies involved both PM Davutoğlu,

Continuing the new trend of cosplay started at Turkey’s new presidential palace where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resides, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan were welcomed by policemen dressed in Ottoman-era costumes on April 10 in Ankara.

and President Erdoğan,

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed during a ceremony on April 10 with the “New Turkey Anthem” performed by an Ottoman military band, which praised him as “Our Leader.”

Though quite visible, such overtures are not necessarily a way to success with the public, as the same paper noted in covering the fate of a number of “candidates for candidacy” who had vied for position on the AK-Party candidate list, which was decided this week:

Several candidates had launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the AKP. However, none of the “Ottomans” were able to break the glass ceiling of modern politics when the ruling party announced its candidates for the June 7 general elections on April 7.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-23

1 – Insults to Erdoğan weekly roundup – a now regular feature of the Turkish news-scape is the count of how many journalists, cartoonists, students, activists or others are currently being tried, fined, or jailed for various forms of insult to President Erdoğan. Examples this week include …

Today’s Zaman regarding a student in Izmir:

A 21-year-old university student is facing the prospect of up to four-and-a-half years in prison for posts on Twitter that are alleged to have insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was prime minister.

Hürriyet Daily News and Diken on cartoonists, with a link to the “problem” image at the latter:

Two Turkish cartoonists face up to two years in jail on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they allegedly included a hidden offensive gesture. Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen, have been sued by Erdoğan for the Aug. 21, 2014 cover of the magazine. In the picture, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam.

Hürriyet Daily News on the sentencing of a journalist in Adana and on the investigation of others in the same city:

A journalist in southern Turkey has been sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city have been raided by police, all for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on their social media accounts. Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana, was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence by Adana 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on March 19, Doğan News Agency reported.

2 – Today’s Zaman reports on the YSK (Supreme election board) banning an AK-Party Nevruz/Nerwoz ad:

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has banned a television ad prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the Nevruz festival because of the use of the Turkish flag and religious symbols, a news report said on Sunday. The three-minute ad was released last week to mark the Nevruz festival — a now officially recognized holiday widely celebrated in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey — to send a message of unity amid efforts as part of a settlement process to resolve the decades-old Kurdish issue through talks.

The AK-Party is clearly aware that such use of symbols is illegal, as they had an ad banned for similar reasons almost exactly one year ago, in the run-up to the March 2014 municipal elections. More about that ad and its zombie-like imagery can be found at endtimescafe.

3 – Ileri Haber and T24 report that he Beyoğlu Zabita raided a screening of the 13th annual Filmmor Women’s Film Festival taking place in the Rampa Kafe, saying that the cafe didn’t have a license for screening. Festival coordinator Melek Özman noted that the festival had received all the necessary permissions from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The filmgoers resisted the police for about an hour, until organizers told the police they had called officials in the municipality and parliament, at which point the police finally relented.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on a bill approved by parliament that increases governmental oversight of the internet. From Hürriyet Daily News:

Parliament has approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill which gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours, just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court. Parliament approved 13 more articles of the omnibus bill late March 12. A key article stipulates that ministers will have the power to order the removal or blocking of an online publication for “defending the right to live, securing property, ensuring national security and public order, preventing crime or protecting public health.” The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) could enforce the request of the ministry, as a blanket ban of the website if deemed necessary, within a maximum of four hours.

The same paper also prints an interview with scholar Aslı Tunç on the importance of social media in Turkey and the government’s strong efforts to curtail it.

5 – Censorship round-up – Hürriyet Daily News reports on members of the US Senate pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to act on press freedom in Turkey; Today’s Zaman details a new report by Transparency International that says 86 percent of journalists in Turkey believe self-censorship is common; and columnist Melis Alphan notes the long history of censorship in cinema and art related to Kurdish identity.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-02

1 – Hürriyet Daily News (and Radikal)

Weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “16 Turkish warriors” hit international headlines, several candidates have launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

2 – Today’s Zaman

US-based watchdog Freedom House has criticized Turkey’s controversial security package, which grants extensive powers to police officers and provincial governors, saying that the passing of the bill in Parliament is a move to undermine democracy in Turkey. Freedom House, which describes itself as “an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world,” responded to the passage of the first 10 articles, issuing a statement late Monday. The director of Freedom House’s Eurasia programs, Susan Corke, said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the future of Turkish democracy hangs in the balance with this law.”

3 – Hürriyet Daily News

Model and former Miss Turkey Merve Büyüksaraç is facing up to two years in prison for social media posts that prosecutors claim “insult” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The indictment has been completed as a part of an investigation into Büyüksaraç’s post, in which the prosecutor Umut Tepe demanded that she be sentenced to one to two years in prison. The Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul will now decide whether to initiate proceedings. Büyüksaraç, an industrial designer and writer who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, was briefly detained and questioned on Jan. 14 for sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account.

4 – Today’s Zaman

Auditors from the Finance Ministry carried out a raid at the Gezici Research Company’s office in Istanbul following a poll the company released showing votes for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) decreasing below 40 percent. According to the Cihan news agency, auditors went to the Gezici office in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district to examine the company’s tax documents on Tuesday morning. The auditors checked up on details regarding the company’s address, number of employees and the administrative structure of the company, then left the office after taking notes.

5 – Gerçek Gündem – Fidel Okan, who once served as lawyer for Star Gazetesi journalist Elif Çakır, gives his version of how the Kabataş story became so exaggerated. Cakır has faced renewed criticism for promoting a story during the Gezi Park protests of 2013 that Zehra Develioğlu, who wears a headscarf, was attacked by a group of protestors. Then Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, picked up on the story and repeated it frequently to demonize the protestors, but there is little evidence that the event actually took place. According to Okan, some protestors exchanged words with the woman and she was upset by this, as well as by the fact that her husband was late to pick her up. She exaggerated her account when he finally arrived to get her and he, in turn, exaggerated it when recounting it to his father, who happened to be an AKP-affiliated leader of a local municipality. This official, in turn, exaggerated the story once again and it was increasingly exaggerated as it moved up the AKP chain of command, to the point that it became a group of 70, half-naked, leather-clad assailants who overturned a baby stroller and urinated on the woman. Okan says that Erdoğan probably believed the story the whole time.