Monday, March 14, 2011

Ex-Politician Talk: "I were once an angel, those peoples are devils"


The media and the judiciary, both essential components of democracy, are no longer free in Turkey, but stifled by an “empire of fear,” former President Süleyman Demirel has said amid increasing outcry about threats to press freedom.

“An empire of fear has been established in Turkey. The press is the most influenced by this; even some very prominent journalists say they are afraid,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview Saturday.

“A free judiciary is required for a free media. In the absence of a free judiciary and press, there is no democracy at all. Let me tell you bluntly: Fundamental rights and freedoms are being violated in Turkey,” said Demirel, who served as president between 1993 and 2000 following multiple terms as prime minister.

The veteran politician, who spent nearly four decades actively involved in politics, used a very critical tone in his comments about Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, urging it to comply with the universally agreed-upon rights and freedoms needed for a healthy democracy. “No democracy can function without a free press. That means a free press is an inseparable part of democracy,” said Demirel, who headed two governments toppled by military coups and was later a key actor in the “Feb. 28 process,” the events around the Feb. 28, 1997, military memorandum that sparked turmoil leading to the resignation of the ruling Islamist coalition government.

“Of course, the press should not abuse its freedom by discrediting people or institutions through fake stories,” he added.

Demirel underscored that a free press should protect the public interest, hold regimes accountable and criticize – sometimes even severely – those in positions of power and influence. “But it wouldn’t be a free press if every dissident gets taken to court. This is wrong. Those who look at us from outside say, ‘Journalism in Turkey is dangerous,’” he said, referring to a story about the issue in the Economist.

Threats to press freedom in Turkey have become a source of renewed debate following the arrests of prominent investigative reporters Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, along with some other journalists, as part of the alleged Ergenekon coup-plot case. The latest round of arrests brought the number of journalists behind bars to 68, according to the Freedom to Journalists Platform.

Listen to international warnings

The recent arrests and detention of Turkish journalists were covered by newspapers and magazines around the world and criticized by a variety of international organizations. The European Parliament has openly urged the Turkish government to take measures to secure the environment for journalists and expressed its concerns with regard to the deterioration of this fundamental freedom. In an unusually harsh reaction, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the people who prepared the European Parliament report “unbalanced.”

“I do not understand why we get furious with those who tell us that we should correct our faults. Turkey is a civilized country and has to have civilized ties with other countries,” Demirel said. “In this contemporary world, universal laws and principles walk hand in hand with national laws. And countries sometimes can urge each other to comply with the law.”

The former president added that the issue has nothing to do with sovereignty. “You cannot do whatever you want to do, even in your own country. Why? Not because you are not free and sovereign but because you are civilized,” he said. “What does it mean to be civilized? It means to be a part of the international community.

“Turkey has made agreements with countries and signed international treaties and conventions to be a part of the international community. These agreements are binding. We have committed to protecting human rights,” Demirel said, responding to Erdoğan’s reaction against the European Parliament report. “If you violate these agreements, then you have to be ready to receive other countries’ urging. If you want to continue to be a member of this community, then you have to behave in a way the community embraces.”

All sorts of pressure on press

Touching on the structural problems with ensuring press freedom in Turkey, Demirel said media owners who have other business interests outside of journalism are more vulnerable to government pressures. “It’s much easier for the government to oppress them. It will easily find a way to do this. Thus, what we see almost everyday,” he said, noting the world-record tax levy imposed in 2008 against the Doğan Media Group, the parent company of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and part of a holding company with broad business interests.

Pressure against media owners in Turkey includes demands that they sack some dissident columnists and journalists, Demirel said. “All sorts of pressure are seen. That does not prove the existence of a free media. You can engage in demagoguery, you can deny the arrest of journalists but you cannot change the fact that dozens of them are in prison today,” he said. “These are not good things and indeed are shameful for Turkish democracy.”

Criticizing the president, warning the PM

When asked about President Abdullah Gül’s statement that he was also concerned about the recent developments regarding press freedom, Demirel said: “A verbal statement is not enough. There is a need for action. Can he take it? As president, he [Gül] can also chair the government, if he wants to do so.”

He added that it is Prime Minister Erdoğan who needs to heed the message in Gül’s statement. “If even the president of a country does not hide his concerns, then the prime minister has no luxury to close his eyes and ears to the people’s complaints,” Demirel said, urging Erdoğan to ensure that the results of the general elections set for June “will not legitimize such disturbing acts.”

“You could get more than 50 percent of the votes; I got that too. But this is not enough. The problem is the satisfaction of the entire people, not only those who vote for you. Those who voted for others have no less right than your electorate,” he said.

Demirel also cautioned the government that the transfer over the weekend of Ergenekon suspect Mehmet Haberal, who has serious health problems, from a hospital to a prison should “not [be] counted as a victory for your side.”

“These men are not running away. You can always try them. But you cannot convince anyone by saying that you have secret evidence against them. No one will buy it,” he said, adding that the situation in Turkey seems set to worsen if the government does not change its attitude.

“The atmosphere is bad. There is no need to compare it with the past,” Demirel said. “A drop of ink is enough to cloud a bottle of water. There is no need to create more Haberal or Nedim [Şener] cases. This is already enough to prove the absence of justice and freedom in Turkey.”

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Guest - Mark
2011-03-14 17:52:36
Demirel, is he still here? I remeber him carrying the suit casses of the American diplomats as they arrive in Esenboga and later appointed as a PM of Turkey and suck the life out that country as his brothers here in Las Vegas gambiling away millionls of dollars of Turkish money as they created a expoert of fakeness to get subsidized from the Tuekish export commitee, and his nephew Suleman II Demirel age of 17 living in San Diego California s l met talking how his father Yahya stolen billions from Turkey, so we are talking about these Demirel's right, I know them very good living in US for 33 years. there were no bigger crooks in Turkey as Demirels,Ozals,Cillers. so cut the BS and go fishing

Guest - LT
2011-03-14 17:35:36
Demirel is correct, if we do not vote these people out, we will have Shariah and religious police in Turkey, Erdogan and his people are going to impose Islamic Republic on Turkey. That is what they always wanted, and that is what they are driving for. Come on Turkiye, wake up, stand up for your freedom. Remember, you can have religion in a Democratic system, but if religion rules, there will be no Democracy, as it is what we have is NOT Democracy but rule by fear..

Guest - dr p
2011-03-14 17:22:54
@nageyec, abdullah, & adam orman: an obese, chain-smoking physician stinking of rot-gut gin can still be telling the truth when he says you need to stop drinking like a fish, eating like a pig, smoking like a chimney, and lying like a potato. regardless of what you think of mr demirel, is he or is he not speaking the truth? tu quoque and poisoning the well is just ducking the issue.

Guest - Swede
2011-03-14 17:21:35
I thought that journalists didnt stay over the law. Are those people arressetd for that they had written, I thought I read that one is in for sexual using of a minor and the other was in for other thing then for their writing.

Guest - Grouchy OldMan
2011-03-14 17:16:18
Although years ago Demirel was described as champion of Islam (and religions) he was later despised by the Islamists when he said “Hijab is not an innocent symbol of liberty, it’s a tool used by those seeking Sharia.”

Guest - rashid
2011-03-14 17:12:56
Some one should ask him, what have they done for decades while governing the country, poverty, lawlessness, curfews, tortures, killings for their masters. There is no limit in improving things and AKP will for sure improve things in this side of the country as well. The narrow minded political orphans always try to stay in news, nothing else.

Guest - adam orman
2011-03-14 16:16:03
One of the most shameless, corrupt politicians of Turkish Republic's short history, who caused very big headaches to Turkiye, is talking about human rights and democracy. He is not credible. He is a crook. He is dishonest.

Guest - Dulcinea
2011-03-14 16:13:34
Thank you President Demirel. It is time the central right and central left get their houses in order. Turkey desparately needs a pragmatic central right political party, who is comfortable with the values, principles and institutions of a universal democracy. AKP clearly does not get it.

Guest - Me
2011-03-14 15:37:29
Whether Demirel and Erbakan are great heros of Turkey or villians is really beside the point. As well educated politicians well familiar with Turkish politics we should all at least listen to what they have had to say on todays issues. That is the whole point in media and the opinions presented. The general public must read, think and then form their own opinions from what is presented. These two men both had so much involvement in the Turkish system. Who better to learn the history and take actions based on our own opinions. History does repeat itself and we all need to be more vigilant that some histories never see the light of day again

Guest - ameer_r2
2011-03-14 15:14:03
What serious health problems of Haberal? The health report that found nothing of he sort that required hospitalization was hidden by the MD and he was then arrested as cooperating with anti-government groups. Many journalists are not good examples of an independent media but spin stories to satisfy media bosses and political allegiance to the secular opposition.

Guest - Pshtiwan
2011-03-14 11:59:27
By publishing only the comments which gloryfi turkey and not my comments which is not offensive shows how much the staff of the turkish daily news know about democracy and freedom of speech

Guest - Abdullah
2011-03-14 11:55:45
How many journalists were killed when Demirel was Prime Minister or President? How many of these killings were properly investigated and lead to that the murderers were taken to court and convicted? Not that many. Demirel is a hypocrite. He has no credibility to talk about press freedom.

Guest - Pshtiwan
2011-03-14 11:15:05
What democracy is he talking about? maebe turkish style democracy which is democracy for some but not others like the kurds.

Guest - Paris the Romantic City
2011-03-14 10:25:08
Yabanci. You are writing "His attack on Gul, Erdogan and the AKP clearly indicates his innermost belief that the AKP will have a land-slide victory on June 12." I fail to understand how you can draw such a conclusion. Do you mean that if a polititian critisizes another one, then that means that he (or she) actually believes that his competitor will win a land-slide victory?

Guest - Roger
2011-03-14 10:09:49
Thank you Suleyman Baba. We wish you were still in charge.

Guest - Yabanci
2011-03-14 10:06:52
What is the purpose of Demirel's attack on Erdogan and the AKP on freedom of press and human rights in Turkey 3 months before the general elections? What is his record on freedom of press and human rights during his forty years' service to the country? He cannot stand the successes of the AKP in the last two general elections. His attack on Gul, Erdogan and the AKP clearly indicates his innermost belief that the AKP will have a land-slide victory on June 12.

Guest - Israeli Atheist
2011-03-14 10:02:46
We in Israel love former president Demirel very much. I remember his visit in Israel as a president - He visited also Bat Yam, a city with a large community of Jews from Turkey, where he was greated by a large crowd of Israelis who love Turkey. Dear Turks, please wake up. The AKP may be right critisizing Israeli settlements. But it went too far including the Mavi Marmara - an AKP provocation (and an Israeli stupid handling). The AKP is inciting not only against Israel, but might cause hatered between Turks and Jews who live peacefully together in Germany and other European states.

2011-03-14 09:27:50
Bore off Suleyman. No one cares about your opinion.

Guest - katie
2011-03-14 09:25:17
Erdogan said this: "Democracy is a streetcar you ride until you reach your destination" You are all being deceived into believing you have a democracy,whilst he whittles it away. Turkeys democracy = oxymoron & a sham.

Guest - Nageyec
2011-03-14 05:38:11
Hold your horses Mr Demierel, we saw your time in power and you never cared for democracy or freedom. in your time parties were closed and leaders were put in prison by just reading some verses of a poem. you never raised your voice or disapprove such practices. In fact you applauded and benefited. so why are you all of sudden come to mention all of these supportive words for democracy. the press laws are the same laws you have helped get created and until new constitution is made the law will understandably stay the same. the best advice I can offer you is to show some remorse and admit the suffering you have caused to the turkish people in the name of Kemalism.

Guest - Pydpydper
2011-03-14 05:01:46
There is NO democracy anywhere in the world. Wealth and pre-established power dictate who gets to be the "head" of a country. In America, you have no choice other that whom you are told you can vote for. Obama is the "president" BUT he is not the leader. The "leaders" of the US are the power mongers of wealth. IF you want to be a "democracy" like the US all you need to do is reduce the educational level as mush as you can so that when the people vote, they will do as you convince them to do. You don't need to force anyone. Get it? Pass this on to that fool Demirel.

Guest - Sirdar Agha
2011-03-14 04:11:41
Bravo Demirel!!! Your timely statement is more than welcome in this turbulent period where some are trying to muzzle democracy in all it's forms and shapes. They should know the days of turning the clock backwards is over and that ultimately the only ones who will be turned back are those who want to silence voices of freedom.

Guest - Adelia Goldman - from Brazil
2011-03-14 03:47:55
Demirel is 100% right. Dear Turkish friends, in the not so distant future, you'll be envying the Iranian "freedom" !That's how bad things will get in Turkey.

Guest - nostro
2011-03-14 03:36:44
Democracy is just a train you ride it and then get off. These are the words of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Among other disturbing statements by himself this type of rhetoric saya alot about his intentions and views. But the voters don't seem to pay attention. At this rate Turkish streets will be like the streets of Egypt if voters continue to disregard the real and malicious intentions of Erdogan.

Guest - Grace Chow
2011-03-14 03:12:42
Just watched BBC Channel 4 programe 'Western Civilization' and talked about Turkey played a big part in the process of western civilization. So impressed by Turkey's wonderful history and the big contribute to the world history. What has happened today quite upset me and why do some stupid politicians in this great country try to stop the freedom of press in order to secure their politic power? It signifies Turkey step back not forwars towards the democraocy.

Guest - Grace Chow
2011-03-14 02:58:18
Demirel should replace Erdoğan as PM. If he is put in charge of the country, Turkey stands a big chance to become a true democratic country and the people enjoy much more freedom.

Guest - jennet
2011-03-14 02:44:38
This leech Demirel that sucked the blood of Turkey for so long, can least afford to give his two cents opinion now that he was finally been ousted from his post and has no authority to comment. As if the West has freedom of press, when at every juncture the press is censored to ensure that the truth about government's wrong doing is always supressed, or covered up secretly. He ought not talk to Turkey, about today's freedom of press, when the world has never experienced any freedom and never will. Just as well Turkey got rid of this man, that had managed to keep freedom of speech in Turkey under 'house arrest' so to speak, whilst he held the reins of power and failed to always act in the best interests of Turkey, whilst siding with foreigners.

Guest - HLM
2011-03-14 01:46:07
Bravo. A courageous leader steps forward while others mumble or make only timid moves against the advancing Empire.

Guest - yasemin
2011-03-14 01:43:55
I am disgusted by this governments attitude to democracy and freedom of media. I am starting to believe this government has another AGENDA up there sleeves.

Guest - Christoph
2011-03-14 01:17:01
"An empire of fear has been established in Turkey." Mr. Demirel is correct. The AKP regime has savaged Press Freedoms in Turkey under the vindictive 'rule' of Sultan Erdogan. The viciousness with which Erdogan has attacked and prosecuted members of the press is unprecedented, except in dictatorial states. It's certainly unprecedented in democratic states. One more example of why Turkey's image in the west has plummeted under Erdogan/Gul/Davutolu. But I imagine Turkey's image has risen in Iran, Syria and Libya.

Guest - mok10501
2011-03-14 00:46:16
Mr. Demirel, who is considered the master of the democracy in Turkey, tells the real story and worries about the recent derailments of the AKP regime in failing to protect freedom of press. The opposition have been kept under the fear of made up stories like ergenekon, sledgehammer. Suppression of your own people will turn against you soon.

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