Nov 182014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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There has been a steep rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and attacks in Turkey over the last few years, especially during and after Israeli offensives in Palestinian lands. Most recently some racist and violent groups have taken up the excuse of the Al-Aqsa Mosque provocations and used this is a pretext to attack Turkish Jews and synagogues.

In order to protest against the rising anti-Semitism in Turkey and commemorate the horrific events of the past, the Say Stop collective held a protest meeting with dozens of participants. When activists gathered in Galatasaray Square in Taksim’s Istiklal, right next to the venue there were ten times more policemen than activists, as usual. The moment the banner was opened, interestingly enough some people came to ask questions in English, thinking anyone protesting anti-Semitism would come from abroad and not from within Turkey. It was also interesting to hear questions as to the meaning of the word “anti-Semitism,” as some of the passersby did not know what it means.

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In fact, this happened to be a delayed protest. There was supposed to have been a protest meeting to commemorate the Kristallnacht and rising anti-Semitism in Turkey the week before. This commemoration would be taking place in the open air for the first time in Turkey, yet for several reasons it did not happen. As Say Stop, a collective of anti-racist activists, was preparing for the commemoration, attacks on Neve Shalom Synagogue came as an unwelcome surprise. On November 7 and 9, two attacks took place; the timing was also significant because it was just a week before the 11th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues on November 15th, 2003, which left 27 dead and 300 injured.

There are unfortunately many groups that take courage from the anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech notable people engage in with impunity. Over the summer of 2014, when the Israeli offensive in Gaza killed thousands, the head of the constitutional commission from the governing AKP, Samil Tayyar, had tweeted “may your ancestors perish, may your Hitlers be abundant,” which then led to a wave of anti-Semitic posts on social media. Imitating politicians and musicians who engaged in such rhetoric at the time, over 30,000 people made similar remarks, most of which would be considered hate speech. This hate speech was later followed by one shopkeeper putting up a sign that stated “Jew dogs cannot enter.”

“Jew dogs can not enter”

“Jew dogs can not enter”

One might also remember other instances of anti-Semitism prevailing in Turkey, such as the incident right after the mining tragedy in Soma, when current President Erdoğan had said “Jewish sperm” to a mourning relative of a miner as an accusation towards him. One other incident that was also picked up on the news was when the head of the Physics department of Bilecik University, Ali İhsan Göker, got into a quarrel with a journalist who published a story on anti-Semitism in Turkey in an Israeli newspaper. Dr. Göker referred to Treblinka, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and tweeted “Treblinka will be ready soon. Constructing the railway to transport Jews at the moment.”

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Say Stop, an all-inclusive collective of activists which had slowed down its activities for some months last year, has been campaigning against racism, nationalism, and discrimination. Just when activities were to be kick-started once again with the Racist of the Month “award,” 30 thousand candidates appeared in one month, which made things a little complicated. For the month of July, Say Stop declared all anti-Semites “Racist of the Month.”

And once again, the activists of Say Stop / DurDe will be with all those that are being targeted out of hatred for their origins, religion, language, choice, preference, status, etc. Just like the other groups that Say Stop campaigns in support of – such as Armenians, Roma, refugees, immigrants, and LGBTI individuals – the Jewish population is not alone.

 

 

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Nov 082014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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One of the best outcomes of international gatherings in world-scale metropolises is new connections and emerging opportunities. The Digitaler Salon in Berlin’s Humboldt University is one of those outcomes. While in Berlin someone suggested I pay a visit to the Institute for Internet and Society and introduce myself. I was invited to a very exciting and informative event organized by the Institute. On the evening of October 29th, Digitaler Salon was held with the participation of three very successful experts from academia, journalism and blogging. The topic was Crisis Reporting with the comments of Christoph Sydow of Al Sharq, Thomas Wiegold, a journalist who covers defense and military policies, and Dr. Johanna Roering, a media researcher focusing on propaganda at Tübingen University.

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Out of my habit of not being able to rely on punctuality and effectiveness of public transport in many countries and cities, I left before the agreed time and arrived at the venue earlier than expected. The speakers greeted me and we started talking about the day’s topic, crisis and war reporting and the involvement of social media and bloggers, and also about how blogs are perceived and how the media are transforming. The discussion took place at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, located right at the Bebelplatz, facing the infamous “book burning memorial” that was erected at the place where thousands of books were burnt in 1933, May 10.

The pre-discussion of course had a tendency to turn towards news from Turkey, as there was one particular participant in the audience who had brought much news from Istanbul to their attention previously. So talk began revolving around the level of press freedom, the number of journalists who have lost their jobs, government control over what gets published, and even controversial accidents journalists have had. As there was a professor present who focuses on “propaganda and media,” the 6,000 “social media experts” the Turkish government has hired were also mentioned in the context of manipulating media focus and online discussions. This is a negative example of the use of digital tools for journalistic purposes.

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After a few bretzels and some wine, the the actual session was ready to start. The coordinators were ready, cameras were rolling and everyone took seats in a very cozy atmosphere. Greetings were exchanged and participants were welcomed, and the talks began. While the topic in general was issues of reliability and verification of the news—comparing the limites resources of many bloggers to newsrooms’ advanced networks and resources—there was a special focus on media pluralism and press freedom in countries where there seem to be problems with freedom of expression and press freedom.

Verification Problems

It is an undeniable argument that bloggers lack the resources or the ability to build networks as reliable as the mainstream media. Yet verification has many levels and tools these days. A very useful book, HYPERLINK “http://verificationhandbook.com/”Verification Handbook, supplies a lot of information not only for newbie bloggers but also old-school journalists who might need further help. The book is being translated into several languages. Also, it is important not to have high expectations of bloggers and citizen journalists who mostly run their pages on a voluntary basis, unlike profit-oriented media outlets. Yet a blog post from the ground can also guide the professional journalist who might otherwise be unable to grasp the issue from the outside. In the end, real news should be a fine balance between what we see on the blogosphere and print (traditional) media.

What happens under governmental pressure?

When it comes to international news, and especially news related to defense strategies, the military, and security, it is true that traditional journalists have better connections and sources for supplying reliable information from the ground; however when the type of news changes to national scale, then the balance might be disturbed a little. At the Digitaler Salon the main focus of the discussion was on defense and military related news. But the situation in the streets in Hungary, for example, was being reflected in a completely different way the traditional media there and by bloggers during the same week. That could be a perfect example of what might go wrong with traditional media outlets where there is a lack of media pluralism.

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Basically a profit-oriented company that focuses on expanding revenues while trying to reach out to even more buyers/audience, and facing pressure from the national government, would not really reflect the psyche of the streets and would want to continue keeping friendly relations with the authorities. That being the case, it is likely that only the independent reporters in the country can reflect what’s actually going on there. Yet, if the independent journalist is not an expert on the region or country, or has not spent enough time there to really grasp what is going on, s/he will not be able to give an accurate report of an event. In that case s/he also relies on good contacts who might be able to share more information with the journalist, and this happens mostly in the form of blogs these days, apart from personal conversations.

In a similar fashion, citizen journalists and bloggers might also reflect on events with too much passion and misinterpret the situation. If the person reporting the news or events is coming from right in the middle of whatever might be going on, it would probably be hard for the person to give accurate information free from personal passion, grudges, and all other emotions. Or the reports may be subject to misinformation and unverified sources that may in fact cause more harm. And one important aspect not to be forgotten is how to differentiate citizen journalists from the traditional journalists they complain about; or what to do in order for anyone reporting from a crisis zone to avoid war-fetishism when it comes to reflecting on the pulse of the streets?

Overall, the Digitaler Salon was an opportunity for discussions revolving around journalism, media pluralism and press freedom in the 21st century. As a final comment, I can say that it was a valuable experience to be able to attend such an event, and express the hope that it can set an example for other parts of Europe. And in terms of sustaining media pluralism, a more internationalist approach could in fact help the coverage of issues that local authorities might object to seeing covered.

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More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Nov 062014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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The notorious level of the media’s freedom in Turkey has proven their inability to report accurately many times in the last couple of years. On the national level it is a daily habit by now to witness the performance of the pool-media where, on certain days, all newspapers come out with the same headlines and main articles, and compare these pieces of “news” to the parody paper Zaytung. However, when it comes to international fiascos, one has to wait a few months for another example of scandalous reporting.

Colorless milk ports flap furiously

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Only a couple of months after the Gezi Park Protests, the daily Yeni  Şafak had won the gold medal in the propaganda Olympics by trying a long-shot attempt at proving Noam Chomsky’s “manufacturing consent” theory through an interview with Chomsky himself, yet failed to publish the answers to non-existent questions correctly. When it was discovered that some of the answers printed on paper did not actually belong to the internationally renowned philosopher, the editors published a Web page showing all the claimed-original answers, which included HYPERLINK “http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=6740″some really bad Google-translated sentences, one of which also included the word “milk port.” Later on this fiasco was referred to as “a general plot against national stability and security” by the editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

At the beginning of October, a video was shown of US Vice-President Biden at Harvard University talking about the Middle East and how some allies, including Turkey, have helped radical entities, and especially ISIL, in the region and explaining that this had expanded the scope of instability in the region. Upon these words, Turkish President Erdogan had said that the American Vice-President would be “history for me if he has indeed used such expressions.”

Towards midnight on the day this demand came from the Turkish President, all pro-government media started emergency broadcasts of the news, with news flashes of the apology that came from the US Vice-President. According to the reports, Joe Biden had called Erdogan and apologized for his “claims.” CNN Turk had broadcast the news, referring to White House spokesperson Josh Earnest and reporting that Joe Biden had apologized for misinterpreting a conversation with President Erdogan.

There were long articles as to why an American Vice-President would apologize to the Turkish President and how it took place. Many “experts” on all TV stations interpreted the situation as Turkey’s emerging as a giant power, and proving to the whole world what a marvelous neo-Ottoman state Turkey has become. The next day, it was possible to hear citizens on the streets talking about the strength of their state and their pride in making one of the strongest peoples on earth apologize to their “fatherland.”

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Yet, the milky dream lasted about a month before Biden was on the screens of CNN, this time stating that he never apologized. He said “There’s nothing I’ve said that I haven’t said that was truthful. And so sometimes – you know, everybody says they’re looking for authenticity. What I have done is where – if there’s been a general – genuine misunderstanding – let’s take the comment, you know – I’m told I – I apologized to (Turkish) President Erdogan. I never apologized to him. I know him well. I’ve dealt with him. I called him and said, ‘Look, what was reported was not accurate to what I said. Here’s what I said.’”

In the atmosphere of lack of media pluralism, I presume that not many reporters bothered to run a background check on the claims or demand a further comment from Vice-President Biden regarding the apology. On the other hand, in a country where the media are under a lot of pressure, it would be hard to ask for verification of the news when the claim is coming from the One Man of the country. Yet, it is enough to make the whole country the world’s laughing-stock once again, alongside all the other fiascos in every corner.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 312014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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Activists and young intellectuals from across Europe came from all directions and gathered in the heart of Europe, at a centuries-old castle near Berlin, Schloss Wartin, for the #FixEurope Autumn Campus. European Alternatives, who organized the meeting, set up the agenda to discuss problems that Europe faces and find possible “solutions” that might bring about a better future for all of us. We shared, we learned, we explored, and most importantly, we discussed all kinds of issues that Europe is facing today.

Dozens of people gathered around a table of vegetarian grill raised their glasses to a better future in the hopes of a more complete Europe. People seemed eager to discuss matters that they think are vital for the future of the continent, and suddenly it seemed to become much easier to solve any problem the old continent might have. Once the path to discussion and dialogue is open, rational people should be able to find a way to overcome whatever problems are affecting the whole area and be able to give an answer to those who claim that there can never be an answer.

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When participants were asked to simply note down the things they think need fixing in Europe, the list just went on and on. The list was getting almost as long as the history of the castle. Yet in fact this should not discourage any Europhile. It is merely an opportunity to see what happens when there is a very unilateral understanding of integration and of the European unification plan.

Our delightful host’s food was served in the main hall, and as we waited impatiently while enjoying tunes from the piano, one wondered at how many new ideas were popping up in everyone’s head at that moment. Every single minute was inspirational among this group of creative and impressive people in a calm and quiet atmosphere, without an Internet connection. Ideas actually got jotted down and new ones spread around on the tables – faster than the circulation of the food, I must say.

Issues that are swept from attention, things that people perhaps had not paid enough attention to previously, were brought up on the agenda. For once we could spare all the time in the world for a few days, as there was no WiFi zone to bring us the distraction of the “unread 666 messages.” Glasses and bottles clinked, new ideas kept popping up right in the middle of the sounds of nature. Much-needed peace and tranquility surrounded the activists. In the darkness and cold of the night, old projects were talked of, bringing about new project proposals.

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The premiere of the Transeuropa Caravan took place at the castle with the participation of all the activists on the campus. There’s no need to add that it was inspirational, revealing certain local problems that parts of Europe experience and that most other parts would not even hear of were it not for such initiatives for bringing Europe closer to all its citizens.

We had gathered in Berlin with one major aim: to target and tackle problems that affect Europe in general. We left Schloss Wartin with thousands of new ideas and a great deal of inspiration and motivation to get to work. The end of the Campus was a joyful ride back to the Berlin city center, where we had the chance to attend a conference at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, which opened with a keynote speech by Saskia Sassen. She talked about all the crisis moments that we can see very clearly all around us, especially the housing bubble and gentrification tactics in most major cities. Sustainability has become one of the primary topics for us all.

After all the talks and discussions, we the activists of European Alternatives at the #FixEurope Campus meeting, can agree with the slogans of the streets “this is still the beginning…”

More stories by Gürkan Özturan http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 202014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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Draconian Internet laws in Turkey are deepening yet once again with a new reform package that will bring new measures against freedom of speech in the country. Previously, the government had already tried to silence the masses through censorship measures, surveillance of Netizens, blocking access to Web sites, or even raids on online news portals’ headquarters. The most recent development concerning the laws against online free speech is the most recent bill that provides for up to five years’ imprisonment for tweeps (Twitter users) who criticize the government online.

The signatories of the infamous censorship law – or as the official name refers to it, “5651: Regulation on the Publications on the Internet” – have drafted a new bill and presented it on the parliament floor on the evening of October 14th. The new bill will allow all the possible suspects that have so far been declared “traitors, enemies, coup-plotters” to be put under full surveillance with just an order from a judge. The requirement of “tangible evidence” that has been required by the courts so far is no longer on the books, which allows the judges to give the order upon “reasonable doubt.” The new law also allows the property of the government-critical suspects to be confiscated, if the accusation is “criminal activity” or “organizing a gang.”

What is “criminal”?

What comprises criminal activity in Turkey has long been a problematic issue and the new bill is no different from any previous one. The main excuse in suppressing free speech in the country so far has been “national-security concerns.” Crimes against the state include plans to end the unity and integrity of the state, cooperation with enemies, propagating war against the state, actions against the basic national benefits, conscripting soldiers for a foreign nation, harming military premises and agreements in favor of foreign soldiers, and economical and financial contributions to enemies.

If one is only a little obsessive, any attempt to strengthen the regional governments and the Europeanization process, which requires that, can in fact be declared a crime against the state. And the witch hunt trials that have been going after hundreds of military officers over the years would definitely be a type of harm against the military.

Less urgent crimes that have been cited in the bill include violation of the constitution, crimes against the legislative body, armed uprising against the government, and assembling and organizing for these crimes. Even though armament had been previously mentioned as a crime in another law, this time the new bill seems to reflect more onto the protection of government against all types of possible criticism. And of course the government would be exempt from the crime of violating the constitution when citizens’ basic rights and liberties are being violated, even though those rights are guaranteed under the constitution.

Social media targeted

“Threat” as a crime is considered to be a much greater fault with the new law and will be punishable by a prison sentence. The new bill suggests that the citizens who criticize government harshly on social-media platforms are included within the scope of threat crimes. Under the current laws, threats bring about imprisonment only for crimes that result in two years and more of prison sentence. For that reason, the government has updated the prison sentence to two years minimum. The new bill also includes clauses that state that those who criticize the president, prime minister, ministers, or security forces openly or over social media will be considered guilty of “threats” and face possible arrest. The new bill also targets the prosecutor who conducted the graft probe of 17-25 December last year that revealed the greatest corruption scandal in Turkey’s history.

Not only the Internet but also the streets…

The new bill’s scope is not limited to digital public spaces but also makes opposition movements’ visibility on the streets problematic. The slogans that have been adopted by critical groups during street protests had already drawn many frowning faces so far; with the new bill they will be considered a crime. The new law also breaches the diplomatic immunity of politicians, allowing them to be put on trial as well in case of threats against public officers, soldiers, police, governors etc. The prison sentence will possibly go up to 5 years depending on the intensity of the “criminal activity.”

No right to defense

Moreover, the new bill also attacks the right to a fair hearing and the principle of defense. Lawyers will have harder time accessing their clients’ files in order to defend them fairly. The bill states that lawyers’ involvement in disclosing defendants’ files would breach the investigation and thus should be limited on a judge’s orders.

Reversal of improvement

The draft bill will be reversing the improvements that have been achieved in the last year with regards to legal procedure, and the few positive remarks in the European Union accession progress report are being met with counter-developments that will present a much graver situation in the coming period. Combined with the intentions to arm the police forces with greater authority to “shoot to kill” in times of protests and plans to multiply the number of water cannons five/tenfold as the Prime Minister has stated, the new bill is just another obstacle created against any kind of free speech, right to assembly, right to access information and many other rights and liberties. It seems and feels like the road to illiberal democracy – if it is democracy at all – is being traveled faster than expected.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 092014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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Kobani in Syria’s Kurdish region has been resisting against ISIS for days, and in recent days the situation has been worsening due to ISIS advances. Civilians have been fleeing and taking refuge in Turkey; hundreds of thousands have been walking to the Turkish border, leaving everything behind. Across Turkey, there have been solidarity meetings with the participation of several political parties and civil society organizations. These rallies were being organized mainly by the Kurdish party HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party). Rallies turned into protests and then turned violent. The result so far is a curfew declaration in six cities and – until this writing – 15 killed.

The “New Turkey”

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Before the August 10 presidential election when Turkey voted on her president for the first time in history, the promise made by  President Erdoğan was of “the New Turkey” where the peace process would finally start blooming and bearing fruit to bring a peaceful end to the “Kurdish Question.” Democratic rights would be granted and economic expansion would prevail. Looking at the first 50 days of the New Turkey, one would not really see anything really new, except for a few new methods in violation of rights and liberties.

Border lock-down

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When ISIS started its offensive against Kobani, people used their right to defend themselves and resist against a possibly massacre. Yet, many people had to flee from the region and run away from the marching IS gangs. In September, hundreds of thousands of people were mobilized. For over a week, Turkey did not allow the border to be crossed. Protests had started taking place back then. As there was no permission to let civilians in, there emerged protests in major metropolises and especially in the predominantly Kurdish cities. Finally on the 19th of September, Turkey opened the border to allow civilians fleeing from ISIS’s siege of Kobani to take refuge.

Permission to intervene

A week after the border was opened for controlled passes, there came the discussion to allow Turkish military to intervene in the situation, at which stage the street spirit changed form and turned into anti-war protests. On October 2nd, the Turkish parliament voted on the permission to allow Turkish soldiers to intervene in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. The HDP refused to vote Yes on the permission, alongside the Republican People’s Party CHP.

The irony in the permission is that currently the sides seem to have changed. When HDP organizes anti-ISIS protests and CHP silently seems to be approving of them, the Nationalist Movement Party MHP and ruling AKP have taken a stand against them, even though the latter two were the ones to approve military action by ground forces against ISIS gangs.

Night of Clashes

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The night of October 7 saw a long night of drifting back to the darkness of the 1980s and 1990s. Protests against ISIS started turning violent. There started emerging images and videos of cars and buildings being set on fire, Turkish flags being burned and Ataturk busts being torn down. However these images appearing simultaneously on the media makes one feel that events are being staged – even more given the knowledge of prior cases where the National Intelligence Agency MIT agents were caught throwing Molotov cocktails and provoking protests to turn them violent.

Yet the violent images might have served a purpose, as several nationalist and Islamist radical groups have taken to the streets and started shooting at the protesters; especially after a piece of fake news stating that “the protesters are burning the Quran in the streets.”

Until the shootings it was the police handling the situation badly, and when more sides started clashing, then came curfew declarations and the military started marching into city centers in several cities in the East. This was not officially a declaration of martial law, or even a state of emergency. Yet, when tanks are marching on the streets, it does not take much to guess what it is; one does not need someone’s definition of the situation.

When anti-ISIS protesters were clashing with police forces on streets, pro-ISIS groups also took to the streets and started assaulting the other side. According to initial reports, around 15 people have been killed. And a dangerous declaration has been put in place today, calling for retaliation on the Islamist organizations in Turkey. In the 1990s, Hezbollah in Turkey had been used against the PKK and thousands of people had died in shadowy clashes. This time it started fast and Kurdish groups have declared they will resist.

Turkish Minister of Interior Affairs Efkan Ala also evaluated the protests and the violent surge. Ala declared that any type of violence will be met with multiplied violence. Ala also used the same method against the Gezi Park protests in 2013 when he was an adviser to the Prime Minister on security issues – after which he was appointed minister without being elected into parliament.

Media Blackout

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Yet again, the Turkish media has surprised no one. While the clashes were taking place, and curfew was being declared in half a dozen cities and the number of deaths was climbing amid widespread protests and violent attacks by counter-protesters, Turkish TV channels were broadcasting entertainment shows, very much in line with the “penguin” patterns they have been carrying out during times of crises.

When there were protests in Egypt, the Turkish television channels were broadcasting live from across Egypt. When a coup took place, it was broadcast live in Turkey… The Turkish audience is allowed to watch all kinds of crisis situations and repression of rights live on TV – as long as it does not happen in Turkey.

If anything was shown at all, it portrayed all the protesters as “terrorists” who were targeting Turkish national unity and sovereignty. Yet the question was never raised as to why anyone who would demand the intervention of Turkish troops against ISIS be “attacking the Turkish nation.” And, second question, why do the police always manage to get hold of the people that shout slogans and fail to find the ones that carry out such attacks. The media are definitely being used for fueling the fire against Kobani-solidarity protests, serving as a tool of consent manufacturing. Given the number of Internet-literate people who critically get their news from social media, the media blackout seems to work in favor of the ones who are benefiting from the violence on Turkey’s streets.

Chaos Lobby

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As earlier the Turkish government explained everything by mentioning… “lobbies,” the most recent uprisings in Turkey have been blamed on a “Chaos Lobby”. All state officials and ministers who appear on TV put the blame on a shady, non-existent organization that they call the “chaos lobby,” probably an advanced version of the “interest-rate lobby,” “terror lobby,” “social media lobby,” “porn lobby,” “judiciary lobby,” “marginal lobby,” “parallel lobby,” and so on…

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 062014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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Right after the graft probe against the AKP government started and phone conversations of alleged corruption of ministers and by then Prime Minister Erdoğan and their family members were leaked on the internet from unknown sources, the government drafted a censorship update on the already draconian Internet regulations law 5651. The update came as a shock when many people thought “they cannot possibly take this any further.” The updated version of the bill suggested that the telecommunications authority (TIB) would store all traffic data as to which websites a user browses and for how long, as well as the right to block access to a website in four hours after the complaint is filed, without a court order. The Constitutional Court of Turkey has ruled that this is unconstitutional and the law update is now cancelled, stripping the TIB and the secret service – the national intelligence agency (MIT) – of its unjust authority to carry out unlimited and unwarranted surveillance and censorship.

Ministers defend censorship and surveillance

Right after the Constitutional Court declared the censorship, surveillance, and profiling law is a violation of rights, government ministers came forward to cite the national security risks of not carrying out mass surveillance of citizens. Minister of Interior Efkan Ala reacted against the court decision stating that the government maintains a balance between security and freedom and has to keep in mind that national security is at stake, thus defending censorship and surveillance. Minister of Communications Lutfi Elvan also reacted to the Court’s decision, claiming that the bill as it was did not constitute censorship but seeks national security on the Internet, where cyber-crimes prevailed through digital publications. Minister Elvan also stated “European countries also keep personal data between 6 months and 2 years in a central location, and there is public guarantee that these data would not be used for purposes other than security and would not be shared with non-state organs.”

Protests worked

When the censorship and surveillance bill was first passed and was awaiting President Gül’s approval, there were campaigns against it and street protests were organized with the participation of dozens of thousands of people. Internetophiles declared that they do not recognize this censorship and called this the “death of the Internet.” Opposition parties also protested against this violation of free speech and the right to acquire information, and had applied to the Constitutional Court for the law’s cancellation. All the reactions seem to have worked well.

Illegal Eavesdropping on Ministers

Minister Elvan proposed that TIB is responsible for the wiretapping scandal that revealed the biggest governmental corruption in history. Even though the ministers use phone devices that are encrypted by the national intelligence agency and TIB would have to go through weeks/months of processing to break the encryption, it is TIB that took the hit in this leakage.

Not long after the scandal became public, the intention to dissolve TIB and give all its authority to MIT and to centralize all surveillance mechanisms was brought to the agenda. By then Prime Minister, Erdoğan had said “MIT is already responsible for such actions as we give to TIB; why have two bodies doing the same thing?” and paved the way for the creation of a digital Gestapo in the country.

Currently, TIB is keeping track of all telecommunications data in the country, without the possibility of deletion of cached information. So, all the calling and messaging data between all users in Turkey are available; or to put it better was available until TIB got raided and servers were confiscated for investigation by MIT.

I am increasingly against the Internet every day”

The Internet is still seen as a destructive device by Turkish authorities. Previously it was a  “waste of time” and then social media was declared a “menace to society”… Now, President Erdoğan has a new statement that brought many reactions from the Internetophiles; “I am increasingly against the Internet every day.” In many occasions he has stated his concern over use of freedoms, although it is usually the freedom of his opponents that he is concerned about. As long as all critical and opposition voices are under extreme pressure in Turkey, there would not be any concern over freedoms and liberties. Perhaps this has some kind of connection with First Lady Emine Erdoğan’s speech at Anti-Addiction Week, claiming that the Internet is as dangerous as drug abuse.

The low understanding of freedoms and liberties continue to be the most obvious problem in Turkey, which according to government supporters is doing a great job suppressing critical voices for the sake of economic development and the triumph of “national will” over citizens.

As might be remembered, in recent days critical news portals have been raided by police and were asked to remove articles criticizing the government, or else have access to them blocked. At a meeting with a joint delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute, President Erdoğan said “Media should never have been given the liberty to insult” regarding the journalists’ approach to developments in Turkey.

Journalists should resist!

Chairperson of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç is partly responsible for the cancellation of the censorship and surveillance law. He was also one of the people who met the IPI and CPJ delegations, and said “There is an atmosphere of fear at the moment. The journalists must resist against it and not give in. Currently what worries me most is the hate and revenge atmosphere prevailing in the country; the political institutions are responsible for this. This will change with the calming of tensions. There needs to be struggle in basic rights and liberties, thus journalists need to resist as well.”

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 042014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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After the Gezi Park protests hundreds of journalists lost their jobs, and dozens of media portals bowed down to authority and gave in. There were a few courageous journalists who tried to stand up straight and carry out their duty towards the public at large. Many of them were subjected to physical attacks, lynching campaigns, digital lynching, and reputation-assassination attempts. Yesterday marked a new low in AKP’s approach to press freedom in Turkey. The newspaper that was established by the journalists fired right after Gezi Protests, Karsi (“The Opposed”), was raided by policemen.

According to the chief editor of Karsi, the police did not present any court order or mandate to raid the building or seize servers. Police arbitrarily raided the building and shouted to remove news pieces regarding the corruption probe that was leaked to the public eye in Turkey between 17-25 December 2013. There was no involvement of courts in this illegal request. The editors demanded the raid be stopped but the answer was loud and clear: “Unless critical news pieces are removed, the whole news portal will be blocked!”

And today, unsurprisingly, access to Karsi’s news portal online was blocked… The portal continues to use a proxy news portal for “uncensored news” (sansursuz haber) until it also gets subjected to same treatment.

Another non-surprise of the day is that the newly established “Grey Line” (Gri Hat) news portal has also been taken to court and access blocking declared, for its potential to distribute critical news material about corruption records. Gri Hat was established not more than a month ago by unemployed/fired journalists and it was going to leak more news pieces regarding all kinds of corruption.

Turkey still scores terribly low in terms of press freedom with dozens of journalists imprisoned (the highest number in the world) and reporters being targeted on a daily basis, designated as targets by government officials, subjected to physical attacks and all-too-familiar censorship. When combined with censorship attempts on the Internet, books, movies and all other news platforms, it is not hard to see the trend’s direction and momentum in the coming days. If alternative/opposed news portals continue getting raided or subjected to threats and give in to such pressure, the future of democracy hangs on spikes in Turkey.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Oct 022014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

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A documentary film called “Until Globe Surface Becomes the Face of Love” tells the story of resistance against state repression during the Gezi Park protests of June 2013 in Turkey. The director, Reyan Tuvi, has worked on scenes recorded at ground zero in real-time protests and reflected on the multicultural atmosphere in Gezi Park during the uprising, telling the story of different characters who have contributed to the struggle for the sake of lifestyles that they dream of and to change their destiny.

Yet, when the film was brought before the primary jury and got approved as one of the 15 finalists, it was taken off the shortlist due to legal concerns. The explanation stated that the film violates Articles 125 and 299 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The quoted articles read as follows:

TPC 125:

1) Anyone who undermines the honour, dignity or respectability of another person or who attacks a person’s honour by attributing to them a concrete act or a fact, or by means of an insult shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three months to two years, or punished with a judicial fine. In order to convict for an insult made in the absence of the victim, the act must have been witnessed by at least three persons.

(2) If the act is committed by means of a spoken, written or visual message addressing the victim, the perpetrator shall be sentenced to the penalties set out above.

(3) If the offence of insult is committed:

a) against a public official in connection with their duty;

b) in response to the expression of religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, in response to an individual’s changing or attempting to propagate their religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, or in response to an individual’s compliance with the requirements and prohibitions of their religion;

c) by reference to the holy values of a person’s religion, the penalty shall be not less than one year.

(4) (Amended by Law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) Where the offence of insult was committed in public, the penalty shall be increased by one sixth.

(5) (Amended by law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) In the case of insults to public officials in connection with their efforts working as a committee, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed against all committee members. In such a case, the provisions related to concatenated offences shall be applied.

TPC 299

(1) Anyone who insults the President of the Republic shall be imprisoned for a term of from one to four years.

(2) (Amended by Law 5377 dated 29 June 2005/Article 35) Where the offence is committed in public, the sentence shall be increased by one sixth.

(3) Initiation of a prosecution for this offence shall be subject to authorization by the Minister of Justice.

Members of the primary jury also read out a press statement telling the public at large that they consider this act of bringing the film under penal code investigation serves the purposes of censorship. When even the jury declares this kind of action as censorship, there is not much to be debated on the side of the state representatives.

The primary jury’s statement is as follows:

“As the jury of 51st Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Competition for National Documentary, out of all the lists of films, we have selected 15 films for the finals and notified the festival management. We then came to learn that one of the films has been disqualified for the reason that it violates two clauses of the Turkish Penal Code, Articles 125 and 299, with its content.

We, the primary jury, consider this kind of an action – a film being disqualified from the shortlist due to its investigation through the Turkish Penal Code – as censorship. Even though we have shared with the festival management that this is unacceptable and requested that the situation be corrected, these concerns and request have been discarded. We thus declare here that we do not recognize such censorship and neither do we want to be part of it.”

Currently there are still hundreds of thousands of websites, books, films, and songs banned in Turkey. And this film about one of the most honorable periods of Turkish history is yet another brick in the wall of censorship. But still, just as we the “Internetophiles” had protested when the censorship bill was brought to the Parliament floor, the primary jury at this film festival also say they do not recognize the censorship.

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/

Sep 162014
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan:

2009 Protest against Internet Censorship Bill 5651 Revisions

2009 Protest against Internet Censorship Bill 5651 Revisions

Just days after Turkey hosted thousands of delegates from around the world for the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul and boasted about policing and pressuring Internet freedoms in the country, a law has been passed in urgency, almost like escaping from fire. The new law allows the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) – which consists mainly of former spies and about which there was talk of disbanding it to make it an office under the national secret service – to carry out surveillance operations and block access to Web sites without a court order. The law now includes the clauses that were rejected by President Gül when the last update was made in February 2014.

The bill came at a surprise moment when it was not being talked of in the media and was definitely not debated at all. Just days before it was passed at 4 a.m., there was criticism of Turkey’s approach to digital rights and liberties, and while activists were expecting a loosening of censorship, surveillance, and profiling activities by the government and secret service, it just happened to get even worse.

Concerns and worries were expressed by an anonymous EU diplomat based in Ankara, and the Turkish EU minister criticized him/her saying “this is not that person’s business.” The minister continued his remarks, saying “This is only in times of national security, not on a regular basis,” referring to the clause of the new bill that states that “this bill can be applied in matters related to national security, public order, and prevention of crimes” yet failed to address exactly what constitutes a breach of national security. One can remember the 2013 Gezi Uprising and how it was labeled a “coup attempt,” activists were declared “traitors,” and the millions who supported the uprising were called “terrorists.”

From Miners to Censorship

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Drafting of the reform package began upon the death of 302 miners in a terrible mining tragedy, due to lack of security precautions; yet the draft bill evolved to address censorship, surveillance, and profiling cases. President Erdoğan approved the bill on the 34th anniversary of the 1980  military coup, Friday September 12 – thus initiating a new level of obstacles to rights and liberties.

Raiding of the TIB

The TIB was raided last February and several top managers were replaced after some phone conversations were leaked on the Internet revealing the biggest corruption scandal in history involving the Turkish government. Now the new team will probably be using the “server-ville” facilities just nearby the capital city, where all telecommunications data are being stored. When combined with the plans to install the NetClean and Procera software throughout the country’s telecommunications backbone, this new bill allows the Turkish secret service to become nothing less than a digital Gestapo. It may be legal to carry out such actions in Turkey, but for sure it is not lawful.

Russian-Style Tight Control

Turkey now prepares for yet another stranglehold on digital rights and freedoms. In October there will be a new bill in the parliament which will address Internet and press publishers. The new law is much like the Russian bloggers’ bill, requiring all digitally published content creators to reveal their names, addresses, and contact details on the Web site, make all content available for at least a year without the possibility of deletion, and comply with already tightened media laws in the country. The new bill is set to mainly target citizen journalism platforms, including bloggers.

handcuffed-blogger

More stories by Gürkan Özturan @ http://theradicaldemocrat.wordpress.com

More stories about Turkey @ http://99getsmart.com/category/turkey/