Just last week, President Erdoğan outlined a new human rights action plan. The plan consists of 11 principles, nine main goals, 50 targets, and 393 actions. Using numbers, bullet points, and PowerPoint presentations were habits used extensively by former Economy Minister Berat Albayrak. He may have resigned from his post, but his habits continue. Essentially the plan promises more freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
It is not set out in the plan how these goals will be achieved, but the goals are set.
Just one week after this promise of a better and freer Turkey was made, journalist Levent Gültekin was attacked by around 20 people in front of the TV network he works at. His fingers are now broken.
He is not the only one who was attacked: Orhan Uğuroğlu was attacked in Ankara by a couple of people in front of his apartment. Journalists Yavuz Selim Demirağ and Sabahattin Önkibar were attacked recently. (I am listing here only the journalists who were attacked, there have also been politicians who have been beaten or attacked)
The common thread among all these journalists is that they have all been critical of the far-right ruling coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The MHP has denied having anything to do with these attacks. However, the party’s Vice President Semih Yalçın has commented on these attacks, saying, “The MHP has a lot of crazy supporters who love the party so much.”
While claiming that the party does not condone the attacks, he is also sending a message to journalists writing or talking about the MHP, saying “be careful.” His message is essentially, if you criticize the MHP, you will pay for it.
The lawyer İsrafil Kumbasar, who had been tweeting negative statements about the MHP was also attacked. Photos of him with a bloodied nose began circling around social media. A MHP MP Erkan Akçay tweeted about the photo saying, who is this handsome man, I guess his dishonor test came back positive. Another member of the party Ahmet Yiğit Yıldırım also tweeted about photo saying, “this is what it looks like when someone is beaten up. The ‘Ülkü ocakları’ (youth branch of the party) makes you pay.” Basically, the MHP is approving of the attack through these statements.
The latest attack was on Gültekin, which I mentioned before. Gültekin’s last remarks before the attack were about the MHP. Gültekin described nationalism as a disease making young people sick and harming them. Gültekin’s remarks were criticized by Semih Yalçın.
As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan try to present an image of a changing Turkey to its Western allies, the MHP is pushing Turkish politics in the opposite direction.
Just one week after Erdoğan promised more freedom of press, the MHP filed a draft bill to the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The title is “the legal framework of internet portals” and it has 9 clauses.
According to the MHP’s proposal, the news portals operating online will be required to register and comply fully with the requirements laid out in the draft bill and, if they fail to do so, they will be shut down by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority. Basically, they are aiming for more scrutiny of the press.
Does this all mean that there is a rift between the AKP and MHP? It doesn’t seem so. The latest rumor is that Erdoğan will be attending the MHP’s upcoming party congress. This will be the first time that Erdoğan has ever attended another party’s congress, which is significant. President Erdoğan visits the head of the MHP, Devlet Bahçeli at his home almost every week. It looks like they are in step with one another. So, are they playing good cop bad cop? It is hard to tell. Turkish politics are always full of symbols and insinuations; politicians are not always direct or open; You must read between the lines.