It is no secret that Westerners are expending efforts to better understand what has been happening in Turkey. Taking a look at the number of meetings on Turkey and the participants in these gatherings is the best way possible to see just how much they really want to understand.
Two weeks ago, on March 27, a conference sponsored by the Turkish Policy Center and the Ataturk Society of America was held. The invitations sent out to potential attendees noted that a panel discussion on “Press Freedom and Rule of Law in Turkey: Current State & Future Prospects” would be held in Washington and that the most notable individuals competent on the subject would deliver speeches.
The panel was chaired by Yurter Ozcan, founder and president of the Turkish Policy Center. He was awarded the Young Turkish Leader of the Year Award in 2008 by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) for his efforts against anti-Turkey lobbies. Barıs Terkoglu, one of the panelists, is being prosecuted for a connection to Ergenekon; he has been released after 19 months in detention. Another panelist was Gareth Jenkins, who wrote the most widely read report on the Ergenekon trial.
The explanatory note in the invitation read: “Turkey has been in the spotlight because of its judicial system and its press freedom record, including ‘the distinction as the highest number of jailed journalists in the world.'...
Despite domestic and international criticism of the flawed Turkish legal system and the imprisonment and prosecution of journalists, academics, members of parliament and military officials, the AKP [Justice and Development Party] government has not responded decisively.”
I do not know how many people attended the meeting. I hope that the serving of refreshments and food, as promised in the invitation, was attractive enough to encourage attendance and that the attendees enjoyed the content of the speeches by the panelists. It is also a relief to see that the discourse of journalists in detention remains influential in the Western world.
It was also a proper to hold a discussion of press freedom outside of the media culture in Turkey. It was also good to underline in the invitation that there has been government pressure on the judiciary with respect to the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials because it is really hard to doubt the impact and reliability of new information and documents in these trials.
I do hope that the panelists did not talk about the hard drives at the center of the Ergenekon case that the General Staff sent in the summer of 2010 to the 13th High Criminal Court. Presiding judge Husnu Çalmuk recently completed his review of the case; after reviewing 235,000 files, he referred his 1,336-page report to the court. The documents include recommendations by and information about the actions of the General Staff on using the media, Internet and civil society organizations more effectively. As such, we realize that some media organs were indirectly supported, certain “reliable retired figures” were appointed “behind-the-scenes administrators” of some civil society organizations and strategies were devised for institutions seen as the backyard of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
The Aydınlık and Jeopolitik magazines in particular were named in these documents, and other agencies were recommended for “grey” and “dark” initiatives. It was also noted that the content of their publications would be dictated.
Perhaps this issue was not covered by the panel. It would not be proper for a panel on press freedom and the rule of law to deal with media outlets that, acting in line with the military guardianship, were involved in manipulating the public. Perhaps, the panelists did not talk about the possible measures to tarnish the image of the AKP in the international arena.
The General Staff's documents note that the views of some prominent figures and institutions, including the Hudson Institute, Michael Rubin and Zeyno Baran, should be promoted. It would not be proper to bring that up because the participants would have then asked whether the panel they were hearing was part of the very same strategy.
I am sure such mistakes were not committed and the utmost effort was made to ensure the attendees remained on the “correct” track. Besides, considering that soft drinks and pastries were served, who would stop and question what is really happening in Turkey?