HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right." Martin Luther King, Jr.
The hefty tax fine that was levied on the Doğan Media Group last week prompted this column to be written. According to the news reports, a record $2.5 billion tax fine, on top of $600 million just few months ago, now totals the group’s market value. I thought, in such a matter, the members of the media sector would have given a unified and tough response to this unjustly fine, which was put upon an owner of the media group who has been also rewarded for being the record taxpaying businessman for so many years.
I have been vividly following my old neighborhood at the same time, which is to say the pro-Islamic and conservative press that I was raised with in my childhood to the middle of my college years. How they were going to react to this fine and what they would do to rebuke this unfairness greatly attracted my curiosity. As a religious young boy, I purely believed what I was taught then and what I studied and read extensively later on, which is that the Islamic and religious beliefs in general demand for a conscience of a greater justice. After all, don't the believers leave much unfinished business in this world for judgment day, after death, and relieve themselves from the great sorrows?
I always wanted to believe, maybe because of the environment I grew up in, that the more pious the media would be then the more vocal it would be toward various unjust behaviors and policies. The teachings of the religions I know advise their followers to look for impartiality and stand up against any kind of iniquity. In light of these arguments, I think that the period we are going through is an important turning point and it functions truly as a litmus test for the Turkish press and for everyone to see some real identities. This period will also help to shed more light on what kind of democratic understanding we want to inject and see fit for our society.
In reality, there could be so many sermons over this blustery taxing issue. The preachy columnists whom we know well, who talk about equality, fairness and inner voice on a constant basis, amid great enthusiasm and assurances, could have in this case, given dire warnings to the unjust rulers, just as what their religious thoughts would have advised them to do. They could have said, we are all together in this boat, even if we do not like each other much, and most of the time we disagree with one another.
Instead, the majority of the writers and editorials of this part of Turkish press have chosen silence and consequently, at least so far, have shouldered the powerful. Even in the late Ottoman history, in the 1870s, one of the very few able grand viziers, Ali Pasha, in his last testament to then Sultan Abdulaziz, clearly elaborates on the importance of the freedom of the press. From Dr. Fuat Andic's book (Sadrazam Ali Pasa, Eren Publishing): "The freedom of the media would be dangerous only for those administrations which do not want to correct their faults. … The freedom of press would be a natural ally for an administration that wants to fight with evil and yearns to do good."
Even if there was no justice issue at stake, defenders of democracy must have known that the independence of the media is the most important element of that very democracy, a most evocative hose for the system to breathe in, in order to support the umbrella of democracy, which the society of Turkey can live peacefully under. Without the media having a weapon of that strength, the executive power will bulldoze all freedoms in society. Even if the current executive power is with us, one objective and smart voice would argue, the next one could very well be an “adversary.” Therefore upholding the fairness of the law above all circumstances must be preferable. As the saying goes, if the active power in the rulers' hands is stronger than the fairness of the law, then society can no longer live freely. This is why everybody, especially the ones in the press, would have to yell more loudly now. Not for any specific media group, but for their own and the people that they try to serve.
There are very few instances in one's life in which you do not have to be an intimate part of the discussion to see what is right and who is wrong, or spot the real intention behind the scenes. In Turkey, we come across to this very moment of a rare instance that screams to the conscience to stand up against the grinding injustices in the making. Democrats, liberals, conservatives and the masses who have consciences, openly or behind the curtains, must stand up and declare that they are with democracy and justice, even if anyone in these groups does not like the victim this time.
This is a disappointing and sad column. Even writing this column is painfully annoying. However, I just had to make a note for future generations and tell them where I am.
There is no need for further elaboration. Elaborations and arguing would work for debates that are vague and would be useful when it is hard to see what is right and how it is so. Now the injustice is openly being displayed in a fashion that is hard to match its rareness in history. It is like daylight. It is the freedom of speech! It is what countless of people lost their lives for in history. Not to see it requires a blind man. And those who do not see it must be taken as such from now on – with no mercy.
I have been listening to blues so much these days. And I would like to finish the article with the lyrics of a song called "Chill Out," which was sung amazingly by James Lee Hooker in a duet with Carlos Santana's guitar:
One of these days
Things gonna change
You'll try not baby
After awhile gonna be mine,
Wont be long long
Things gonna change