FREEDOM AND CORRUPTION
Watching the events in Turkey dominating national politics since the Dec. 17 arrests of 18 people on corruption charges, two things have become very clear to me.
First of all, how shrewd and skilful a politician the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is for diverting attention from the key issue on hand and secondly, how little attention is paid by the Turkish public to the causal link between the corruption and the freedom of speech.
Nearly a month after the scandal broke out, with four of his ministers resigned, the cabinet reshuffled and the judiciary trampled, Mr Erdoğan once again stole the headlines. Defying his critics, he arrived outside one of his latest grandiose mosque projects in Istanbul with his son Bilal who is also implicated in the latest corruption allegations, and declared that his party still commands more than the half of the voters’ support.
Meanwhile, in the capital city Ankara, Parliament began hearing a bill that will restructure the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) , the body Mr Erdoğan sees as the mouth-piece of his Islamist rival, Fethullah Gulen. Surreal scenes of a government MP kicking an opposition party deputy and flying i-pads and water bottles dominated the newspaper headlines.
With crude but effective moves, Mr Erdogan managed to divert the attention from the corruption scandal to the debate over the changes to the legal system that he accuses of plotting another coup against an elected government.
Inside and outside the country, all eyes are on the Justice and Development Party government’s attempts to expand its power over the judiciary and the police force.
This is not surprising because the latest move is going to undermine the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.
But just as importantly, these changes will stunt the corruption investigation that hangs over the government.
Today, the government is fighting against corruption allegations it faces by shaking the foundation of the democratic institutions. It is abusing its position and trading in its influence in order to tighten its grip not only on its opponents but on entire society.
To protect itself from detection, the government is also increasing its control on the media. A bill submitted to parliament last week aims to block specific websites and to gather information about internet usage. . The new legislation would allow the government to store data such as IP addresses and activity logs for up to two years.
It can get away with this level of impunity because it operates in an environment where human rights violations are tolerated or ignored, and full access to information and freedom of information are curtailed.
After all, Turkey’s corruption scandal was unearthed not by a free, investigative media nor did it come about by the workings of an impartial and independent justice system.
As an Istanbul-based freelance journalist Piotr Zalewski succinctly pointed out in his recent article http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/corruption-scandal-fallout-settles-uneasily-in-turkey “If citizens have no choice but to rely on an occult faction of the judiciary rather than an independent media to expose graft and high-level corruption, Turkey’s democracy might not be in good shape”.
Corrupt countries are always those where human rights are violated.
The global anti-corruption campaigner Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2013 http://www.transparency.org/country#TUR clearly shows how indivisible and interdependent the respect for fundamental rights are with a good governance.
Bad governance leads to violation of the basic human rights and in their absence, corruption flourishes.
This post is also available in: Turkish