Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Readers are without question weary of reading in this space about the government’s ongoing tax case against the Doğan Media Group, the parent of this newspaper. Frankly, we are weary of writing about it. But we must return to the topic again.
As we reported yesterday, almost the entirety of the first tax salvo fired at us a year ago, a levy of 862.4 million Turkish Liras, was tossed out in a court ruling.
This was, of course, simply one round in the fight. Turkish law allows both sides to appeal to a higher court in this instance. Predictably, the Finance Ministry announced it will indeed do so. So be it. As we have said throughout, we have ultimate faith in the working of the Turkish justice system.
It is also an incomplete victory in that the ruling is only on the smaller of two distinct levies. A second levy of nearly 5 billion liras was imposed after the initial one. Combined, the two assaults add up to a backbreaking 5.7 billion liras.
So many others around the world, from figures at the International Monetary Fund to the European Commission to virtually every significant press-freedom organization in the world, have called these fines what they are: a politically motivated sham. That a court agrees is heartening.
To say it has been a difficult year is an understatement. This has tested the will and resolve of everyone in this company, from our CEO to our reporters and editors. But we said we would persevere. And we have.
We are also heartened that markets read the court decision as we did, not as a final vindication but as an important milestone toward a return to normalcy. Doğan Media Group shares climbed 21 percent on the news Monday.
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are broad and many-faceted issues in Turkey. We realize that we are not alone, that efforts to silence a vigorous and unfettered press are many. Other publications without staying power have been suspended. Journalists have had credentials revoked for their reporting. Court cases against journalists number in the thousands.
Let’s be clear. No one in Turkey, not even anyone in the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, believes this is a routine tax case resulting from a random inspection. Officials will defend this case with such arguments. But privately, they do not believe it either. It is a political case, open and shut.
It certainly is not over. We are not naive. We know that many other threats to the institutions of the media have not disappeared. But Turkish justice has worked. This is a very small victory for the Hürriyet Daily News and our parent corporation. But it is a very big victory for Turkish democracy.