Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Kirby: Turkey-US Strong relationship is made stronger by having press freedom improve



DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #75
TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2015
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs & As w Kirby

QUESTION:  World Press Freedom Day.  This question was going to be for Secretary Kerry, but now to you.  (Laughter.)
MR KIRBY:  But I didn’t call on you.

QUESTION:  John, over the last three, four years during the Secretary’s tenure here in this building, Turkey’s freedom records in every aspect, whether press freedom or freedom of assembly or minorities and all that, have been backsliding very badly and dramatically.  Do you think that this administration could have done something different or better, or do you see any responsibility on your aspect to make Turkish administration handle these issues better than they have been handling?

Kirby: Path to success does NOT come by harassment of the media
MR KIRBY:  Well, a couple of points there.  We’ve talked about before that the trend we’re seeing in Turkey is not a good one.  It’s not going in the right direction.  I think I’ve described it as worrisome, and I think we still believe that.  We don’t believe that restricting freedom of the press is healthy for any democracy, and yet, we still believe that Turkey can live up to all its democratic principles, the ones that are enshrined in its constitution, and we want to see them do that and we want to see Turkey succeed.  We don’t believe the path to success, democratically speaking, is by harassment or – of the media or restricting their ability to do their job, and we’ve said that many, many times.

Kirby: Turkey-US Strong relationship is made stronger by having press freedom improve
We’re going to continue to make that case as clear and as concise as we can privately and publicly with Turkish leaders.  I don’t think you’re going to see that diminish.  I don’t think you’ll see, as long as there’s issues of press freedoms there, you’ll see me shying away from it here from this particular podium either because it matters to us, not just because it matters to us – and the Secretary talked about how much it does – but because Turkey matters to us, and we want to see, again, Turkey 
succeed.  They are a vital partner and a vital ally on some very significant regional issues, and we believe that a strong relationship, strong bilateral relationship with Turkey, which we have, is made stronger by having this trend – this press freedom trend that we talked about – improve.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

US Spox: Turkish Government official bodies shall not undermine the Turkish democracy.

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB #72
THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2016
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs & As w US Spox John Kirby 

QUESTION:  On Turkey?
MR KIRBY:  Really?  Surprising.  Turkey, out of you.  (Laughter.) 
QUESTION:  John, I know you had a statement about the Iranian journalist in the beginning.  I don’t know if you had a statement for Turkish journalist who sentenced to two years jail for publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons.  This was – just happened today. 
MR KIRBY:  Let me see.  I think I might have something on that.  While I’m looking for that --
QUESTION:  I’ve got a whole bunch of little ones.
MR KIRBY:  Okay.  Well, then let’s wait.
QUESTION:  A follow-up on Turkey. 
MR KIRBY:  A follow-up?  I haven’t even answered the first one on Turkey.  (Laughter.)  What are you following up on?  Holy cow.  (Laughter.)  Following up on me saying I’m going to look.  All right.

Turkish Government to ensure that official bodies are not used to undermine the Turkish democracy.
So we continue to defend freedom of speech, as you know, and freedom of expression in Turkey and around the world.  We also understand and respect that some have strong feelings about depictions of religious figures.  We’ve said that before too.  As Turkey’s friend and NATO ally, we urge the Turkish Government to ensure that official bodies, law enforcement and judicial authorities, are not used to undermine the Turkish democracy.
Media organizations should have the freedom to use their independent professional judgment when determining what they publish.  These are complicated issues – of course we know that – but ultimately ones that journalists have the right to make themselves.  And frankly, that’s what we’re doing here every week is kind of reminding all – not that you need reminding, but reminding everybody else in the world that we stand by that principle.

Turkey democracy not vibrant anymore but ''fully capable of living up to its own constitution''
QUESTION:  I wonder if you still think that the Turkish democracy – if you still think the Turkish democracy is vibrant as you --
MR KIRBY:  We still think that it is fully capable of living up to its own constitution and to the aspirations of the Turkish people, and we want to see it succeed.  We want to see Turkey succeed.  And the reason why we worry about freedom of expression issues and press freedom there is because we don’t believe that’s the best path to success is to repress the freedom of journalists to do their jobs.

US: We continue to raise this at every juncture, as appropriate
QUESTION:  Are you finding new ways to convince Turkish Government to change this course since it seems like it is failing very badly?
MR KIRBY:  We continue to raise this at every juncture, as appropriate.  And as I’ve said in the past, this is a worrisome trend that we see there, which is all the more reason why we continue to speak out. 
I’ve really got to go.  I’m going to --

Monday, April 25, 2016

US State Department has no ''specifics'' re American journalist being denied at Istanbul Aiport

QUESTION:  Turkey?
MR KIRBY:  Go ahead, Turkey.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  There’s a American journalist today denied entry at Istanbul airport.  This is the fourth foreign journalist within the last week.
MR KIRBY:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  In addition to another Dutch-Turkish journalist who visited Turkey, but his – her passport confiscated in Turkey, so she cannot leave from the country.  These are very new trends.  I wonder if you have any comment specific to American journalist.
MR KIRBY:  Well, again, without getting into each and every case, we’ve seen the press reporting on this, and you know where we are on media freedoms and the treatment of journalists, not just in Turkey but around the world.  Nothing’s changed about that from our perspective.  We continue to raise the issue of media freedom in Turkey and we’ll continue to do that.  But I don’t have specifics with respect to each and every case that you’re citing.  Obviously, you’re seeing these reports; we’re concerned by them, as we would be anywhere.  And again, what we want to see is for Turkey to live up to its own constitutional principles, enshrined right in its constitution, to include freedom of expression through the media.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Former Hacktivist Hector Monsegur "Sabu" Squashes Conspiracy Theories

Hector Xavier Monsegur, known also by the online pseudonym Sabu is a former American computer hacker and co-founder of the hacking group LulzSec. He later turned informant for the FBI, working with the agency for over ten months to aid them in identifying other hackers from Lulzsec and related groups. More info on him Wikipedia.

Monsegur, recently became a popular person in Turkey and a matter of conspiracy theories among pro-AKP government circles. People like Hilal Kaplan, Yusuf Ozhan, C.Kenar wrote and talked about Monsegur's release by Attorney Preet Bharara, and alleged that Bharara may have rewarded Monsegur for his attacks on Turkish government servers during Gezi Protests in 2013. Bharara is the same U.S. Attorney who arrested Reza Zarrab last month. All these attacks on Erdogan government during Gezi protests, according to same pool of AKP writers and talking heads, orchestrated by FBI. These rumors were talked at pro-AKP government media (pool media) and newspapers, written columns on it.

Below, my Qs and As with Hector Monsegur which will end these rumors:

> Did you in anyway cooperate with Prosecutor Bharara in conspiring against Turkey during Gezi protests (btw June 2013-Sept 2013)?
Realistically, I have never met the man. He was the boss of my AUSA (Prosecutor Jim Pastore (google it)), so even though my prosecutor did all of the work Bharara took all of the credit. I never personally interacted with him, nor did we have any discussions, nor did the prosecutors office ask me to do anything like that. Remember, my case is over and I owe nothing to do the government. I do not work for the government, and I'm the least person in the world to protect them against these conspiracies as I have nothing at stake and nothing to gain.
So to answer your question: no. By June 2013 I was already banned off of the internet, under gag order not to communicate with anyone related to my case (including Anons)

> Do you think the reason Prosecutor Bharara let you free bc you attacked on Turkey and other countries?
No, not at all. My cooperation, contrary to popular belief, was to provide information on active hacks, including hacks against foreign governments. As far as I know - the FBI would communicate those attacks to the foreign governments via government channels - be it embassies, CERT (Computer Emergency Response Teams) or otherwise. So, if I were to intercept an attack against Turkey by chance, more than likely the U.S. government sent a memo to their counter parts that an imminent threat exists.

> Did FBI agents ask you to attack on Turkish government?
No.

> Did FBI agents were okay for you to attack Turkey or other countries like Brazil while they were watching over you?
Post-arrest, I didn't technically attack Turkey. And since I didn't attack Turkey, it wasn't a legal issue.

> Did you help Redhack to attack Turkish government servers during Gezi protests?
No. In 2012, I introduced RedHack to a colleague at the time who shared similar anarchistic beliefs. They collaborated, and thus hacks happened. Even though I had communicate with RedHack, I did not collaborate with them on any specific hacks.

> We know you helped RedHack early in 2012. Did yo help them in 2013?

No. By 2013 I was completely banned off of the Internet. I did not return until May of 2015, when my supervised release (probation) completed.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Sudden love of Erdogan for American Jewish lobbies and leaders

Almost a week after President Erdogan’s Washington visit, one of his most remembered meetings seems to be his meeting with American-Jewish leaders. This meeting was put at the top of Erdogan’s schedule, so that shown carefully to friend and foe how important it was. An opinion piece written by Louis Fishman, who teaches history in Tel Aviv, Istanbul and New York, at Israel’s liberal paper Haaretz, posed some difficult questions for American Jewish groups and leaders.


Fishman, in his piece titled “Dirty Deals,” notes that the political movement led by Erdogan now carry out a tsunami of human rights violations. He also asks whether Erdogan is trying to co-opt U.S. Jewish leaders to launder his reputation.


Fishman continues: “Despite all the bad publicity, the Turkish president received a very warm welcome from a coalition of U.S. Jewish groups and lobbies.” Present at the meeting were the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. These organizations are known as some of most effective American Jewish groups and lobbies.


This meeting comes only about one month after a similar meeting held in Ankara. Fishman’s goes on saying: “By meeting with Erdogan at such a low point, the Jewish organizations put out a strong message that they are willing to take sides in Turkey’s polarized political world and that the major clampdown on Turkish freedoms is not on the top of their agenda.
… if anti-Semitism in Turkey really was a burning issue for those U.S. Jewish groups, it’s ironic they sat down to meet the president who’s shutting down and sanctioning precisely those critical media outlets who speak out against hate crimes while the pro-government press is still free to spread anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.”


“Immoral tradeoff”
Current situation is likened to 1990s’ “Immoral” tradeoff (by Fishman) when Turkey known by its human rights violations was in a war with PKK. In exchange for Turkey bolstering ties with Israel, those Jewish groups would lobby on behalf of Turkey, one permutation being a pointed silence about the suffering of Turkey's Kurds. Almost “two decades later, Turkey is once again embroiled in a war with the PKK, and once again we see a tsunami of human rights violations executed.” And it seems like American Jewish groups once again seem ready to defend Erdogan in Washington in result of Turkey’s normalized relations with Israel and other interests that we for now are unaware of. By this, American Jewish leaders and groups for interests we don’t know exactly, may be ready to forget how Erdogan’s proxy media have been the center of anti-semitic waves for years, and how since Gezi (protests) they target Jews by Israel oriented conspiracy theories.


The relations between Turkey and Israel (and Erdogan and US Jewish lobbies) started going downhill at 2009’s Davos Summit. The Mavi Marmara crisis marked a new low point in these relations, which have not recovered since then. We used to see in those years of American Jewish lobbies’ and organizations’ heavy criticism towards Erdogan. Despite the strong headwind against AKP because of Jewish lobbying efforts, the AKP administration in big part protected its good relations with US administration, and the climate in Washington also, in big part, was in Erdogan’s favor until Gezi protests in 2013. In other words, the American Jewish lobbies’ power was not able to hit Turkey’s positive image hard enough in the West. American experts, American newspapers and also American administration did not change their opinion just because select American Jewish organizations lobbied against Erdogan or Turkey-Israel relations broke down.


Nobody wanted to get in the same frame with Erdogan
Now, on the other hand, Erdogan’s image is its at lowest point since he came to the office. This was witnessed firsthand in Washington by the whole world. He met with Obama on the margins of Nuclear Summit, but only one day later - perhaps because (Obama) couldn’t bear with him anymore - in a not at all Obama-like move, Obama publicly criticized Erdogan, and said that he (Erdogan) could lead his nation down a "troubling" path. This cold shower came only a day before Erdogan’s planned opening ceremony of the Turkish mosque which was planned a year ahead and showed effects there. None of over 50 world leaders in Washington for the Nuclear Summit wanted to participate the Mosque opening despite expectations. Neither Joe Biden nor senior level White House and State Department officials who work on relations with Muslim communities in US attended.


Washington’s important local paper - which is known by closely monitoring the Congress and US administration – the reputable RollCall.com’s John T.Bennett’s piece on Thursday pointed that President Obama’s “meeting with President Erdogan was one of those meetings purely for political reasons.” The US administration said: “The White House didn’t say much about the conversation, but made clear it was -- in diplomatic-speak -- an unofficial meeting, pointing out in a short statement that they chatted “on the margins” of the summit. Message sent. Message received?” That was the message sent to Ankara from the White House.


What are American Jewish Leaders avoiding?
I tried to speak with a representative from American Jewish Groups who met with Erdogan. For years, although American Jewish organization have not been very willing to speak, they wouldn’t be so stubborn as to not give any comments. ADL or AIPAC would have normally issued a press release. I couldn’t get a single Jewish lobby or Jewish Group leader to speak to me despite my efforts all week. I got no answer from groups and individuals present at the meeting, and still more silence when soliciting comment on Erdogan’s “charm offensive” from other effective Jewish leaders. Everybody is aware how toxic is the name of Erdogan. Erdogan is attacking all opposition, considering the press as an enemy, and burning the country for his presidential ambitions... All of these are known by those who follow Turkey and the region even a little bit. That is the reason why nobody wanted to get in the same frame with Erdogan in Maryland’s mosque opening. The mosque was opened just like a mosque that was built in any city in Turkey, with AKP ministers present.


The reason that those American Jewish people who were not very hesitant to speak up in the past are now doing everything to avoid speaking out should be because it’s not easy to defend Erdogan anymore. in a few words, they run away from the Erdogan subject for now. When relations with Israel get normalized, we will see whether these leaders will start defending Erdogan loudly and clearly or not. However it should also be known that in the last 7 years, the Jewish lobbies lost most of their wars; their biggest goal was to block the Iranian nuclear deal and they failed doing so, and the Palace (Erdogan) should form its expectations accordingly.


“Anti-semitism bread is eaten, now time to be friends with Jews again?”
Turgay Ogur, explained very well the approach Erdogan and his allies towards Israel and American Jewish Groups in his column in the Meydan Newspaper: ”You have eaten a lot of bread (got a lot of bang for the buck) out of anti-semitism. This helped to create strong alliances. People rallied behind you because of this. You have also gained votes from it. But what happened now? Your drowning in a swamp in the international arena made you believe that Israel and Jewish lobbies will rescue you. … Israel … cannot save Erdogan’s international image? This should be like a child’s play for them. (I tell you:) neither was your hatred against the Jews normal, nor is your sudden, pathological love for Israel.”


In reality, American Jewish people’s positive contribution to Erdogan’s and Turkey’s image very limited. However, the interests of those lobbies from Turkey can be very considerable. As I sent an email to one Jewish leader who insisted not to comment to me that they are failing the transparency test by rejecting to comment on any subject related to Erdogan. It seems like American Jewish groups, by thinking that there is no alternative to Erdogan, getting ready to put all of their eggs in Erdogan basket.


Hudson Institute Meeting followed by the Weekly Standard Meeting
A parallel track for Erdogan and AKP’s opening up to American Jewish leader sand groups conducted as another charm offensive by (Erdogan) ally journalists and authorities’ rapprochement efforts with Washington’s conservative, pro-Israel and hawkish/neocon teams.






First leg of this (rapprochement), as I wrote before, done by Lee Smith, who is known by his Israel centered writings and as a writer on middle east subjects, with his happy meeting (kaynasmak) with Genc Siviller groups in Istanbul. Smith later on penned pieces that have shown he understood and read Turkey’s every single issue from upside down, published in one of sister magazine of the Weekly Standard. Whether making up excuses for jailed journalists or the war between Erdogan-PKK, he confused issues one, after other. Later on, one or two of left overs from Genc Siviller adherents (yandas) participated in a closed meeting at Hudson Institute, an institute that AKP and its circles have been cursing for a decade or so (for attempting a coup to overthrow Erdogan.) An expert who was present at that meeting told me that there was not a single Turkey expert who is known to be followed, monitored (in DC) went to that meeting.


This week, once again the Weekly Standard (TWS) which is known as Neo-Con and pro-Israel magazine where also Lee Smith writes, organizes a meeting with “Turkish Institute of Progress” which is close to Erdogan Palace as its one of new arms in Washington. Considering that TWS’ invitees in big part would be pro-Israel, conservatives and Republican leaning, it appears again that AKP is playing to these circles in capital. TWS’ editor in chief is known one of leaders of Neo-con movements and also known for his defending the Iraq invasion, William Kristol and Fred Barnes. Knowing that these circles are extremely disturbed by Obama’s Russia, Iran and Syrian policies, there seems to be common points with AKP. There is no doubt that Palace, which does not have a lot of friends in capital, wants to open up in capital via TWS. It appears that organization like Seta, which is known as foundation or “think tank” now being taken over by organizations like Turkish Heritage Organization and Turkish Institute of Progress (in DC). Other contributors to TWS are neo-con pens like Elliot Abrams, John Bolton. For years, Erdogan and his allies attacked American Jews or whenever they are being attacked they made same circles (American jewish groups, neocons) as as targets; now It’s one of the comedy episodes seeing Erdogan and allies’ trying to create an alliance with them.


The title of the meeting is “Looming Threats to NATO’s Southern Flank: Russia, Armenia and the Path Forward” which will be held a place near Congress. Turkey’s opposition to Russia, bad relations with Iran and anti-Assad Syria policies seem to make these Washington circles forget the disagreements of the past.

It seems that there are “stability” and “security” oriented seeds thrown to make alliance in case a Republican Party has the next US Presidency. However, Republican Party’s presidential candidates are Donald Trump or Ted Cruz; considering Cruz’s islamophobic attitude such as “monitoring Muslim neighborhoods” or Trumps’ openly racist and anti-Islam attitude, it’s a mystery for now how they can agree with Erdogan. Despite all, it’s nomal (understandable) not to cut hopes with Erdogan who is known with his sharp U turns.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Amb. Indyk's Big & Black Umbrella For Erdogan

Amb. Indyk's Big & Black Umbrella For Erdogan


The Brookings Institution, 100 years old think tank here in Washington DC disappointed in every which way by its performance before and during the Turkish President Erdogan talk last Thursday. Brookings, for some reason or another, wanted to play an umbrella role for Erdogan to shield him against any unwanted and unplanned “accidents.”


Brookings Crocodile tears
First, Brookings watched Erdogan’s security details terrorizing protesters, journalists and anyone who was present around Brookings Institution’s front door last Thursday for over an hour. For more than an hour, Erdogan’s security people threw the nastiest cuss words, kicked, pushed and attacked people in front of everboydy. They seemed charged as if bulls seen a color of red and going after anyone standing up there. Later on when Brookings issued a statement about what happened, they could not condemn the actions of bodyguards. In the statement, it said, "we oppose any effort to silence or harass members of the media" but in reality Brookings itself silenced members of the media by robbing journalists' right to ask question. It brazenly breached the trust of Turkish people and Turkish journalists. And if this is not enough, now Brookings again started posting some Turkey pieces in which mentions press freedom issues in Turkey while itself did the worst thing to steal Turkish journalists right to ask questions last week. This is called crocodile tears.


Indyk's Big & Black Umbrella
American’s former Israeli Ambassador Martin Indyk came to rescue Mr. Erdogan. He, as if Erdogan’s security detail is opening an umbrella to shield Erdogan against protesters, opened his big and black umbrella to protect Erdogan inside the Brookings. Amb. Indyk, as if a paid lobbyist of Erdogan, held him passionately, and does not let him go until he is sure that Erdogan is out of Brookings.


Indyk, as if talking about Turkish press freedom issues, asked Erdogan whether he does not like to hear criticism, after few tender sentences about press freedom issues in Turkey. If there is a case study to teach journalism students how a “soft ball” question can be prepared and presented, Indyk can be certainly up there as an sample. Indyk did not ask about Erdogan’s nearly 2000 insulting cases opened against ordinary people, journalists and others. Nor he saw any need to ask Erdogan’s disrespect of the rule of law, Constitutional Court decision. Instead, Indyk asked Erdogan whether he does not like criticism. In thanking Indyk, Erdogan government arrested half a dozen journalists as soon as Erdogan got back to Turkey.


Not Erdogan but if it was N.Korean dictator sitting at the Brookings last week, he could have really scored well and left a good impression on Washington's "policy audience". Indyk was there to make sure his guest will leave Brookings without a scratch.


Reza Zarrab
Largest topic of Erdogan visit was Reza Zarrab’s arrest. Reza Zarrab, a money laundering and sanctions busting actor was praised by Erdogan in recent past. When Zarrab released after a couple of months in jail in the beginning of 2014, Erdogan said “justice is served.” Zarrab, for whatever reason, wanted to come to US and arrested only days before Erdogan's visit. Everybody talked about Zarrab and wondered if Erdogan still thinks he is a charitable and nice guy, as he once described him so. But not Indyk. Indyk apparently was not reading Washington Post or any other commentaries on Erdogan's visit to Washington. Indyk had something else in his mind. He was going to open the discussion with EU and Cyprus issues. Quelle belle! Zarrab’s big shadow over Erdogan also did not warrant Indyk to ask that question. What’s more, Indyk also did not intervene when Erdogan skipped it altogether the Reza Zarrab question when he was asked after his speech. Indyk did not remind Erdogan that he was supposed to answer an question.


I warned it and my warnings still on twitter
But was this whole episode unexpected? No. On March 29th, two days before Indyk’s Erdogan train-wreck, I tweeted at him and Brookings, reminded them that he is not a Turkey expert and asked him if he he is ready to follow up with Erdogan for an unanswered question. @Brookings FP tweeted back at me, assuring that he will "of course" do a follow up. We have all seen how this turned out. Instead, just as I heard days before Brookings, he was ready to accommodate his guest for any circumstances.


Indyk met with Turkish Embassy Officials 2 days before the event
Now I learned that Amb. Indyk had a meeting with Turkish senior diplomat from Turkish Embassy two days before Brookings talk. In that meeting, Indyk and Embassy’s senior official talked about Erdogan’s Brookings talk and the settings in the room. They even talked and did bargaining about who should get in the main room. Turkish Embassy presented some “suspicious” and “unwanted” people and they did not those certain people in the main room. According to sources close the Turkish Embassy who would know the meeting, Indyk was very “accommodating” while getting “instructions” from Turkish Embassy official and “coordinating” the event.


For example, Brookings tried to send one of Turkey’s most prominent Turkey expert in Washington to the secondary room, not the main room, even though the expert was there and early enough to be able to easily get in the main room. However, it was clear that this one of leading Turkey experts, was presenting a danger to Erdogan and despite Indyk’s best efforts, could have asked unexpected question. The Turkey expert made it to main room after objecting the instructions by Brookings people.


I asked about Ambassador Indyk’s performance, in other words, his robbing Turkish journalists' right to ask question, to Brookings’ Vice President of Communication, Mr. David Nassar. Nassar gave this lousy respond via email: “Due to limited time, Ambassador Indyk chose to only accept questions from the policy audience.” No, it’s not. Indyk did not choose to only accept questions from the policy audience because of limited time, but it was a decision made between him and Turkish Embassy, or Turkish Presidency.


Brookings, by this lousy explanation, proved that it can easily compete with an Arab dictatorship at a “giving best lousy excuse contest”. Indyk and Brookings robbed journalists right to ask question, then did not follow up questions, and did not ask the questions needed to be asked. Indyk opened a big, black umbrella to shield Erdogan under it. In fact, Indyk’s black umbrella was bigger and more effective umbrella then Erdogan’s security details’ black umbrellas protecting him against protesters.


Brookings' train-wreck
I pointed at this train-wreck before it happened. 

I warned both Amb. Indyk and Brookings on twitter. Nothing was going to stop Indyk to make sure Erdogan got a free ride there. Wonder what he and Brookings got in return. But one thing for sure that Ambassador Indyk and Brookings had their one of the blackest days when it comes to transparency, accountability and being a reputable think tank. 

They threw Turkish democracy under the bus, after long days of planning. So this was not an accident but deliberate operation to throw Turkish democracy under Erdogan's bus. 

Hope they are happy what they got in return. Whatever it is.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Brookings Statement about Erdogan event and Questions Unanswered:

Brookings Institution apparently issued a statement about what happened on Thursday, at President Erdogan event. I omit its first paragraph, because there is nothing there, and rest of it reads:


“Brookings is committed to freedom of expression and to the vital role of a robust free press in a democratic society. These principles are fundamental to the mission of the Brookings Institution and we oppose any effort to silence or harass members of the media. Our staff and security personnel worked hard to provide an open and safe environment for the Washington policy-making community to hear the address by President Erdogan. Amid protests and counter-protests, Brookings did its best to ensure that journalists and other guests who had registered in advance for the event were able to enter. Despite harassment on the part of Turkish security personnel, we believe that all journalists who were registered for the event were able to attend.”


Unanswered Big Question:
Brookings says in its statement: “Brookings is committed to freedom of expression and to the vital role of a robust free press in a democratic society. These principles are fundamental to the mission of the Brookings Institution and we oppose any effort to silence or harass members of the media.”


However, Brookings, itself brazenly breached freedom of press and silenced members of the media during President Erdogan speech. Announcement made by Amb. Martin Indyk on March 31st, after Mr. Erdogan spoke at Brookings, he declared that he will not take any questions from press members because “this is not a press conference.” Amb. Indyk, only one day ago, tweeted this at me: “As with all Brookings events there will be opening remarks, conversation w the moderator, and Q&A from audience.”


Amb. Indyk, did not say anything a day before about censoring journalists, and blocking their rights to ask questions. What Indyk declared a day before was practically assuring everyone, and me, “everything is going to be just same.” Any person who goes to Brookings events would know, this means everyone is going to have equal chance of asking questions to the guest. Nobody will be barred. Ambassador Indyk must have known that he were to declare that he will block journalists the next day, he and Brookings would face serious questions. He did not. He, instead, just declared Brookings’ new rule of blocking journalists right after Erdogan spoke. Without showing any transparency, respect to members of press.


Ambassador tweeted this assurance at me, when I asked in a tweet day earlier: “Does @BrookingsInst plan to do this event w/out taking listener question?Is Amb @Martin_Indyk be ok doing an interview w/out participant qs?”


Not only Ambassador assured everyone, but Brookings’ Foreign Policy team, at a tweet, said this one day before Erdogan talk: “@emeyersson @BrookingsInst - Reports that Brookings is screening questions for the #Erdogan event are completely untrue. Period.”


Brookings, indeed, did not screen questions but completely blocked journalists’ right to ask question without giving any kind of sensible explanation. Amb. Indyk said he will take questions only from policy professionals, instead.


What many people from Turkey want to know why Brookings resorted such a way to block journalists’ questions? Why Brookings thought it had to protect Pres Erdogan from unwanted questions? Is this the same meaning of giving a “free-ride” to the guest as I wrote one day before Erdogan spoke at Brookings in my column and warned Brookings that there are hearsays and a perception that Brookings may give a free-ride interview to Mr. Erdogan. One day later, Brookings, issued statement via Hurriyet Daily and refuted claims that it was going to give a free ride to Mr. Erdogan. What happened at the end? It appears, by blocking journalists' right to ask questions, it just did that.


Brookings, in its statement, also says: “Despite harassment on the part of Turkish security personnel, we believe that all journalists who were registered for the event were able to attend.”


In middle of Washington, Brookings seems to take credit by making possible for those journalists to attend the event “despite harassment on the part of Turkish security personnel” as if there are war circumstances in US capital. Brookings clearly avoids condemning Erdogan’s security details who attacked protestors, journalists and anyone around Brookings that Thursday morning.


Still the question is not answered: Why did Brookings block journalists’ right to ask questions to President Erdogan? Why it felt need to shield President Erdogan despite tweets of assurances a day before there will not be any screening? What did Brookings think of gaining by blocking unwanted questions?


Only one question at the event that came from outside of Brookings Institution, was from an official from Turkish Mentora University, Washington DC. In which, Turkish school official asked Mr. Erdogan a very soft ball question, praising him and his administration. Was this the intention of Ambassador Indyk when he said he will only take questions from policy professionals?

Brookings needs to explain why it blocked journalists. Period. If not, questions about some Turkish Groups, namely TUSIAD and Turkish mainstream media groups' reported request to Brookings to open up a floor for Mr. Erdogan will be asked more intensely. Was blocking journalists right to ask questions also a request made by Turkish business groups to make things easier for Mr. Erdogan? But what exactly Brookings gained by giving this PR sort of treatment to Mr. Erdogan?

More questions out there about Brookings' handling Erdogan talk. Hope they will move quickly and answer these questions, apologize and explain what exactly happened on Thursday.