After two stone-pelting, club-swinging attacks targeting the headquarters of our newspaper in Istanbul, one of our journalists has been beaten up in front of his home in the middle of the city. Our writer, Ahmet Hakan, was injured in this attack and had to spend the night in the hospital.
As such, staying overnight in the emergency section under medical control has become a new life style for journalists in Turkey. Even this picture is enough to sadden anybody about the level democracy and freedom of the press in Turkey has declined to in 2015. Unfortunately, the safety of journalists’ lives, or rather their right to live, is becoming the most problematic issue for the freedom of press in our country.
The attack that targeted Ahmet Hakan is the result of a systematic campaign of slander and pointing-to-targets that has been targeting him for long while. Such attacks have evolved into death threats in the past weeks, directly targeting his life, as “crushing him like a fly” could be mentioned in a newspaper that advocates the current political power.
One aspect of the problem is that threats and the language of violence have turned into prevalent discourse, especially in pro-government media and social networks. Another aspect is that a political culture affirming and encouraging this discourse for a while by the government has been habituated. However, even being indifferent to this discourse bears alone the encouraging of verbal or physical aggression.
The ugly attack that Ahmet Hakan has been objected to should be eye-opening to show the heights such a lynch culture can reach and the kinds of threats aiming at peoples’ lives it can lead to. From now onwards, everyone who closes their eyes to lynch campaigns will be implicated when similar attacks happen.
An optimistic development at this stage happened with the recent emergence of voices within the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), objecting to this indifference. An important step on this direction was yesterday’s statement by Bülent Arınç, one of the party’s founders. “It is another catastrophe that former and new media owners or journalists are threatened by other journalists. I wish that we wake up from this bad dream as soon as possible,” he said.
What Arınç defines as a “bad dream” is the reality, the current life of Doğan Media Group, its owners, its group publications, columnists and TV commentators, who all have been target to a wide-scale lynching campaign for a long time.
The question that lies here is whether the feeling that Arınç expressed would find support from the corporate identity of the AK Party, its cadre and its grassroots in the public.
Doğan Group and its sister company Hürriyet, as the key guarantee for independent journalism in the mainstream media, will never step back because of such attacks. Thus, as Ahmet Hakan said in the early hours of yesterday at the emergency room, “Such attacks will never intimidate us. We are not afraid. We will continue walking on the path that we know is right.”
The attack targeting Ahmet Hakan should be a wake-up call for everybody regarding the threats that freedom of the press in Turkey currently face.
We hope that this incident will pave the way for the ending of the reckless threats and the language of violence.