The day before yesterday saw Turkey depart from the parliamentary system it had steadfastly applied for long years and pass to a new political system. In this new system, known in the official terminology as the “Presidential System of Governance” and unequalled and unparalleled in the world, all state powers have been placed at the beck and call and initiative of a single person and have become exercisable within such bounds as he determines. A single person to be elected with one vote above 50% of the valid votes cast by the section of society that participates in elections has been given a virtually uncontrolled and unmonitored monopoly on power. In fact, the parliamentary imperatives and provisions of the Constitution in force had for some time been effectively cast aside, or, indeed, in the words of those in power, the constitution had been suspended and placed in the fridge. The legal infrastructure and imperatives of the de facto situation were put in place in the constitutional amendment referendum held last year. The transition to the new system was finally completed with the 24 June 2018 elections. In this new period, it appears impossible for the state’s legislative-executive-judicial functions to be carried out as necessitated by the separation of powers. This state of affairs and new political system will debilitate efforts towards a democratic society. A monolithic structure will be created in which the desires, preferences and voice of a single person will henceforth hold sway over all the state’s institutions and entities and its functions, duties, officials and powers.
The future of journalism in the new period
In a historical period in which the ability to wield and defend journalistic independence has been difficult in the extreme, Cumhuriyet newspaper has succeeded in this. Of course, this success has not gone unpunished. It has been and is being made to pay a very heavy price for this. By way of price for its independence, unyieldingness, refusal to do homage to anyone and coverage of the news in keeping with the truth and public interest, there has virtually been a wish to throttle this newspaper and its staffers until they are breathless using all the state’s means and mechanisms. For, Cumhuriyet does not compromise on the right of the public to obtain news and be informed and its journalistic principles, is resisting and constitutes a bad example. The situation into which the judiciary has fallen in Turkey is a known. Rest in peace judicial independence.
Unfortunately, we are a society that for a fairly long time has been deprived of an independent judicial organ and professionals who possess the necessary guarantees, facilities, information and experience to be independent and impartial. There is virtually nobody who does not complain about this situation. Just as the independence of the judiciary is an indispensable condition for a democratic society, the independence (from the ruling political body) of the press or media is also a necessary condition.
In societies in which the press is not independent and free, reality and events are not reported, but, on the contrary, reality is created out of the news and fictitious stories are published as news as though they were true. Society is only able to become informed in the manner and with the content that the political authority and ruling bodies wish. The right of freedom of expression and the press amounts to the ability to impart permitted thoughts and opinions. Criticism can only be made within such scope and context as the political authority determines. If that can be called criticism, of course.
Such a society can undoubtedly not be deemed to be a democratic society. If Cumhuriyet newspaper manages to continue publishing and operating without compromising on its independence and the basic principles of journalism in the face of such duress, threat, embargo, sanctions, conspiracies and injustice, this at the same time – even if it does not wish for it - is the political authority’s good fortune. Would but the realisation dawn of the value and importance for the ruling political body of the existence of newspapers and media outlets like Cumhuriyet of which fewer now remain than the fingers on one hand, this would have to be deemed a good start. However, unfortunately, the developments we have experienced in recent years provide ample pointers as to how imprudent it would be to harbour expectations of this nature. We, as Cumhuriyet newspaper, will continue as before on our path informed by our fundamental values and publishing principles until we are bereft of all opportunity and facility and our right to publish and operate is ended.