ANKARA - Daily News Parliament Bureau
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu complains of massive pressure imposed on the Turkish media, especially before last month's referendum. AA photo
Turkey’s main opposition party is preparing a report for European Commission officials and deputies at the European Parliament that outlines the pressures the government is allegedly imposing on the media.
“The report will be translated into English, French and German. We’ll send it to all European officials. We’ll show them who is in favor of democracy and of rights and freedoms,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told his deputies in Parliament during the first parliamentary group meeting of the new legislative year.
Kılıçdaroğlu complained of the massive pressure imposed on the media, both against the owners of newspapers and against individual journalists, especially before last month’s referendum on the constitutional amendments.
Recalling how prominent columnist Bekir Coşkun was sacked from daily Habertürk reportedly because of his critical stance toward the government, Kılıçdaroğlu said he had informed all his European counterparts of the matter during recent visits to Brussels and Berlin.
The leader’s criticisms coincided with calls from international press organizations to the Turkish government to take legal steps to prevent journalists from being prosecuted for their writing.
More than 40 journalists are currently imprisoned while another 700 journalists have been prosecuted recently. “I am afraid this pressure will increase before the general elections,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Evaluating the referendum results, which have paved the way for a reshaping of the country’s top judicial institutions, Kılıçdaroğlu said the 42-percent “no” votes were proof that the CHP was running for government.
“We’ll bring the people’s government to power. We’ll abolish YÖK [Higher Education Board], and free the universities,” he said.
Kılıçdaroğlu said university youth had been silenced by the government. “If the universities and youth of a country do not speak, that shows how democracy is suspended in that country.”
Recalling that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had not kept his promise to abolish YÖK, Kılıçdaroğlu said Erdoğan’s main strategy was to build a university system that fully abided by government policies.
On the ongoing debate about the timing of a drafting of a new constitution, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Erdoğan for not keeping his promise to launch the process right after the referendum.
“What should we call a prime minister whose words and acts are contradictory? If you say something, you should stand behind it. He assumed that the CHP would oppose this idea but as we have accepted it, he just lost his control,” he said.
MHP: No escape
Devlet Bahçeli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, said the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which seemed “highly enthusiastic” about a new constitution before the referendum, is now beginning to “deliberately halt” the issue.
“It is now being realized that the matter of the Constitution will become an issue to be exploited by the ruling party. It is also unclear where the main opposition party stands on the issue because of their policies that keep changing from day to day,” he said. “Let no one escape from this; let no one exploit the matter to gain political benefit.”
Despite this, Bahçeli said they were ready for dialogue regarding the new constitution, adding that the opening speech made in Parliament by the president contradicted Erdoğan’s direction. “The AKP’s hat has fallen off and the truth is being exposed.”
BDP: Don’t victimize charter for elections
The discussions over the new charter were also on the agenda of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. “Renewing the Constitution is so important that it cannot be wasted for the general elections,” Selahattin Demirtaş, head of the BDP, told his deputies at Parliament on Tuesday.
Arguing that the current discussions over the methodology and timing of the new constitution were no different from past experiences, Demirtaş proposed launching an inclusive process for the Constitution.
Demirtaş also outlined his party’s priorities, including the right to education in one’s mother tongue and democratic autonomy. He also asked for the release of imprisoned BDP politicians, saying: “They can no longer stand the pressure imposed on them.”
“As long as this pressure continues one should see that the ongoing dialogue process will remain futile,” he said.