Sunday, April 1, 2012

Journalist Ahmet Şık's Speech in Brussels and A(nother) Case of Scandalous Misinformation by Gulen's media flagship daily Zaman

Upon the invitation of the Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, Ahmet Şık, the Turkish investigative journalist and the author recently released from prison, briefed MEPs in Brussels on March 28.

According to the report in Hurriyet daily, "Şık cited the names of Ruşen Çakır, Nuray Mert, Çiğdem Anad and Mehmet Altan as some of the journalists who were fired after slight criticisms, and went further to elaborate on the elusive nature of the Gülen community. “The Gülen community is a phantom. They are everywhere but nowhere. They are the cause of fear in society because they control the police,” he said. [...] The ongoing Ergenekon probe and other related trials are also nothing but a farce intended to prosecute individuals and institutions targeted by the Gülen community, according to Şık. Şık also rebuffed claims that journalists jailed in Turkey are not under arrest for their professional activities, and said the prosecutors and judges who questioned them primarily asked about their journalistic activities and sources."
Interestingly, Gulen movement's media flagship Today's Zaman covered mainly the few remarks on the Turkish government and the Gulen movement that Sik received after his speech [and distorted them]. Today's Zaman's coverage was not only imbued with misinformation, but also "mysteriously" was modified between March 28 and March 30 from a more openly biased idiom to that of a more contained and better-tailored subjective piece . In addition to those changes, the comments from the Q&A session exclusively covered in the Today's Zaman article appear to have been distorted when compared with the actual footage from the briefing and the Q&A that followed (in English translation) here

In the original article by Zaman, EP Liberal Group Deputy Chairman Alexander Graf Lambsdorff is quoted as saying: “the Gülen movement is conveying messages of tolerance and dialogue to the world. One could only be its defender.” In fact, Lambsdorff, rather than defending the Gülen movement by declaring it to be a movement to be defended, was actually asking a question to Şık: “Gülen Community is a bit of a mysterious entity. The leader talks about peace and harmony in an Islamic way; these are not the things we are opposed to. What, do you believe, are they their real intentions?” After this preposterous distortion of Lambsdorff's words, Zaman later edited its version to “Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said the Gülen movement claimed to be doing good things by conveying messages of tolerance and dialogue to the world and asked Şık to comment.” The question remains: where does Gülen's media flagship's audacity to distort a public statement come, and, who do they think they are fooling by changing their initial statement?

Secondly, EP Liberal Group Andrew Duff, who is claimed to have “slammed” Şık in the original version of the Today's Zaman article (later changed into “criticized”), for his critical arguments against the Turkish government, appears not to have criticized Şık, let alone “slam” him in his response. Duff's comments seem rather to focus on AKP’s other activities (those directly targeting the militarist networks and the Kemalist rule) and inquiring about the tensions between the Gulenist movement and the AKP government. His statement is as follows: “AKP government has tackled with the old military in a direct way and no previous Kemalist government has dared to do so. The formal position of the old military is still to protect the state from the citizen. But constitutional reform process that is now in train is seeking to reverse that, it is correct.” Duff's comment is not an unconditional support for AKP government but the support is given as long as AKP’s is in concert with EU’s political values and principles. It is not surprising to hear a parliament member to celebrate government's attempts to deepen democracy in Turkey

Apart from manipulating Lambsdorff's and Duff's words, Today's Zaman's third deception is on Şık's response to a parliamentarian's incessant questions about Gülen Movement's real intentions. In Today's Zaman, Şık's response appears as follows: 

"Asked about the Gülen movement’s true intentions, Şık said he also doesn’t know and that he is only speculating as to what the movement is trying to do. He added that he is trying to find an answer to the question of why a civil society organization seeks to organize in the way it does." 

What Şık actually said is the following:
"I am as curious as you are about Gülen community. I think, also, that they are very mysterious, and I am one of the persons who is trying to investigate into this mystery; that is why I found myself in prison. I always said that I wasn't in prison because I wrote a book or I was a journalist, but there is another question I have to ask you. Would I have been put into prison if I hadn't written that book? Now AKP is in power, it is a single party in power but it has an invisible partner, a ghost partner in coalition, that is, the Gülen Foundation (community). They are like phantoms, they are everywhere but they are nowhere. They are intimidators; they are the sources of fear in the society. They are in control of the police. I am not talking about this in rough words; I am a person who has always advocated the facts that I know. If Gülen Community had been doing good things I would have praised them. But there are still questions that need answers. Why would an NGO want to organize itself in two of the most important bodies, the army and the police, in the government? They need to provide answers to these questions and justify them."

It seems like Today's Zaman chose to interpret the word "mysterious" in a way to suggest that Şık said he did not know about the movement's real aims and that he was speculating about it. However, Şık is quite clear in his answers and in his “facts.”
For the full text of Sik's speech in Turkish, visit here.

The original version of the article in Today's Zaman as it appeared on 28 March 2012 is as follows:

Ahmet Şık speaks about Turkish media in Brussels
Journalist Ahmet Şık, who was recently released pending trial in a coup plot case, has spoke about Turkish media in Brussels and accused Turkish government of trying journalism, not journalists, urging authorities to stop trying to silence members of the Turkish media.
Speaking at a panel discussions in Brussels on the invitation of European Parliament’s Liberal and Democrats Group, Şık said his arrest was “helpful” in terms of revealing problems the media faces in Turkey. Şık also accused the Turkish government and faith-based Gülen movement of attempting to intimidate journalists in Turkey

Şık is among four journalists who were jailed pending trial in the OdaTV case, launched as part of a probe into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Thirteen suspects are facing charges of involvement in the media wing of Ergenekon. Şık and three other journalists implicated in the case were released after the 11th hearing of the OdaTV trial at the İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court two weeks ago. 

Şık claimed that the Ergenekon probe is not about shedding light on Turkey’s dark history and discredited investigations of the Sept. 12, 1981 coup and unsolved murders as deception. He stressed that he is not defending the tutelage system in Turkey and added that he doesn’t believe that sharia rule is being brought about in the country.

Speaking at the panel discussion after Şık, EP Liberal Group Deputy Chairman Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said the Gülen movement is conveying messages of tolerance and dialogue to the world. “One could only be its defender,” Lambsdorff said.
Asked about the Gülen movement’s true intentions, Şık said he also doesn’t know and that he is only speculating as to what the movement is trying to do. He added that he is trying to find an answer to the question of why a civil society organization seeks to organize in the way it does. 

English member of the EP Liberal Group Andrew Duff slammed Şık for his critical arguments against the Turkish government and said there is a need to view issues through other prisms. Duff said the government has taken courageous steps to bring about an end to military tutelage -- something previous Kemalist governments have failed to do.

He also claimed that the current government is trying to ensure that in the new constitution people will be protected from the state, not the other way around. “The EP supports these kinds of positive reforms in Turkey,” Duff said.”


GIT North America possesses the two versions of Today's Zaman's articles for the interested parties.