“Every creation, living organism in this universe strives for peace and harmony, but as humans we pollute the world with hatred, jealousy and anger,” Ayhan Cetin, Executive Director for the Turquoise Harmony Institute stated, “We do this for the purpose of living a better life, of being religiously exclusive or guarding our cultural values. In order to keep that balance and harmony, I think that it is important for us to know one another.”
Cetin was speaking at the recently concluded event the Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI) hosted alongside the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI).
The discussion panel titled, ‘The Purge: Media under siege’ was organised amidst alarming concerns on the media crackdown in Turkey following a fail coup attempt in the country on the 15th of July 2016.
Turkey in a startling crackdown on media freedom has arrested 62 journalists with further warrants pending, while press cards of 34 journalists have been revoked.
Further, 3 news agencies, 45 newspaper outlets, 15 magazines, 16 television channels and 23 radio stations have also been shut down.
The Turkish ambassador to South Africa was also extended an invite to participate but had declined, stating he had concerns regarding the convening of the event, he had however shown interest to participate in the matter of media freedom in a separate content.
Turkmen Terzi – a former correspondent to the Cihan News Agency now made free-lance journalist since the seizing of the agency by the government discussed further distressing figures on the recent crackdown back in his native land. He mentioned over 41,000 people had been detained, 2099 schools shut down besides the 1250 associations and foundations and 35 hospitals all sharing the same fate.
Terzi observed not all of these institutions belonged to the Gulen movement and were part of several different organisations.
The Turkish government has blamed the Gulen Movement, the founder of multiple schools and harmony institutes across the globe for being the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt in July.
Abdullah Bozkurt, the former Bureau Chief and Executive Editor for the Today’s Zaman, an English daily newspaper in Turkey before it was taken over by the government mentioned upon his arrival, he discovered a further 35 arrest warrants had been issued for journalists, he observed that media outlets that made an endeavour towards exposing the government were being shut down or taken over.
“The Turkish Government is targeting journalists, editors, new anchors, basically anyone who is exposing the wrong doings of the government. The Government is using the Gulen Movement as a scape goat,” Bozkurt stated.
The now seized Zaman News Agency was a once highly regarded news outlet in Turkey, and the country’s President, Recep Tayip Erdogan had previously commended the work of the news agency, even labelling it as the ‘Guardian of Democracy’ in Turkey, however things turned sour once the agency began exposing corruption scandals within the government.
Shannon Ebrahim, foreign editor for South Africa’s, Independent Media, lauded the work of the Gulen Movement.
“From my own perspective I can say that, from what I have seen, the objectives are really quite notable with what the Gulen Movement has done both in Turkey, regarding its humanitarian work and education side of things, as well as around the rest of the world,” she said.
Sam Mkokeli, a third panellist at the forum, hailed the democracy present here in South Africa.
“South Africa is not Turkey, it’s disheartening that our fellow journalists in Turkey are experiencing what they are. It makes me proud that we have developed a very strong country with strong institutions that are meant to support our democracy,” he said.