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In the wake of the terrible Ankara attack, which was responsible for killing 97 people and injuring more than 500, the first serious thing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) did was to order a media blackout on the investigation to block criticism of its security mistakes and lack of necessary precautions to prevent the attack. I was planning to write something in addition to my last column as the number of deaths and those wounded have increased, but it is not possible at the moment.

 

Instead, I have chosen to write about the media blackout decisions made in recent years by the AKP. It is quite obvious that the governing party systematically uses this exceptional provision as a censorship tool to limit and control criticism of the government's actions and operations. With great sadness, I prepared a list of 19 instances during the last three years that will enable you to see an overall pattern behind of the scandals. The legal basis given for the media blackouts is Article 3 of Press Law No. 5,187. Indeed, with a little investigation on the Internet, you could extend this list. Here are the 19 scandalous events I have searched for and found within 30 minutes on Google:

1 -- On June 20, 2012, Syria downed a Turkish warplane during a reconnaissance mission. The government immediately placed a media blackout on all written and visual news.

2 -- On Oct. 3, 2008, more than 600 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members attacked the Aktütün basecamp in Şemdinli, Hakkari, which resulted in the deaths of 15 soldiers and injuries to 20 more. Turkish security forces then shot 20 PKK members. The government decided to impose a media blackout on the same day. Defying the media blackout, the Taraf daily claimed on Oct. 8 that nearly one month earlier the attack had been announced and that no precautions were taken by government officials; thus the soldiers were left to die. The Taraf daily journalist, Adnan Demir, who had written the article was later acquitted in a trial regarding the disclosure of “secrets.”

3 -- On Dec. 28, 2011, Turkish F-16 planes bombed villagers assuming they were PKK members in the Roboski massacre, killing 34. A media blackout was taken immediately after the event.

4 -- On Oct. 25, 2014, three soldiers were killed by PKK members in Yüksekova, Hakkari. A media blackout decision was taken a day later.

5 -- After a football match-fixing probe on July 3, 2011, a court issued a media blackout decision banning the publication of details of the investigation.

6 -- After the Reyhanlı bombings took place on May 11, 2013, when two car bombs exploded in the town five kilometers from Hatay, which is the busiest land border post with Syria, at least 52 people were killed and 140 injured. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was the prime suspect, a suspicion that was only recently proven in court. A day after the attack, a criminal judge of the government's peace courts ordered a media blackout.

7 -- During the Kobani events, on Oct. 9, 2014, Bingöl Police Chief Atalay Ürker and two policemen who were next to him at the time were attacked by PKK members. The next day, a media blackout was ordered concerning the event.

8 -- Regarding an illegal bug located in then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's office, the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office ordered a media blackout in order to control “the integrity of the investigation.”

9 -- A criminal court of peace judge ordered a media blackout after the Suruç bombings on July, 20, 2015, which resulted in 34 deaths.

10 -- Just after the notorious graft probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, a media blackout was ordered, aiming “to control information pollution.”

11 -- One of the main suspects of the same graft probe, businessmen Reza Zarrab, had his lawyers apply to a court and they won a media blackout decision for their client.

12 -- When it was revealed that a meeting about Syria between the minister of foreign affairs, the deputy chief of general staff, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) undersecretary and the Foreign Ministry undersecretary was bugged and leaked, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) ordered a media blackout.

13 -- The Ceyhan Criminal Court of Peace ordered a media blackout regarding the news of the systematic rape of a 15-year-old boy by his cellmate in Ceyhan M Type Closed Prison.

14 -- When MİT's trucks were caught transporting “unknown” cargo to Syria, RTÜK ordered a media blackout. A judge at the Adana 5th Criminal Court of Peace later ruled to uphold the media blackout order.

15 -- A commission in Parliament on the notorious four ministers involved in the graft probe scandal ordered a media blackout on all news relating to the ministers.

16 -- The Ankara 9th High Criminal Court ordered a media blackout after ISIL's raid and capture of at least 50 people in Turkey's consulate in Mousul in June 2014.

17 -- RTÜK ordered a media blackout after the Soma mine disaster of May 13, 2014, resulted in the deaths of 301 miners.

18 -- In Adapazarı, the media uncovered the scandalous abuse of 34 people, including public servants, having paid sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. The next day, a court ordered a media blackout.

19 -- Last but not least, a new media blackout was declared by the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office regarding reporting of last weekend's twin Ankara bombings.

These types of routine media blackouts can only be seen in non-democracies. In a real democracy, just one such incident would be enough for a responsible government to resign. But in Turkey, President Erdoğan considers these scandals to be part of a wider “conspiracy.” Can we really say that the AKP is fond of the free media?

 

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