Aziz Kamil CanEnglish

PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT CAMPAIGN /PROPAGANDA OF (TURKISH PRO-GOVERNMENT) MEDIA ABOUT THE ECHR RULINGS

Nowadays, in Turkey where every kind of human rights violation is observed,  the pro-government media, known as “Havuz Medyasi” in Turkish, literally “the pool media”, has been undertaking a well-organized campaign of perception management (to manipulate public opinion) about the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the appeals made to the ECHR (by the Turkish nationals whose rights have been violated by the government)

There might be three reasons for such a perception managament campaign:

1- The criticisms raised by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe against Turkey about the right violations

2- The ECHR has ruled on some applications, including Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay cases, that basic rights have been violated. The ECHR has also questioned the reliability of Turkey’s internal legal system by declaring that it will maintain its scrutiny over the effectiveness of the Constitutional Court.

3- To drive people to despair and discourage them from filing a lawsuit especially when the two abomentioned positive developments raised hopes for the pursuit of justice.

It’s not difficult to guess who is the main news supplier of the pro-government pool media.  This supplier is Anadolu Agency (AA), an autonomous but state-subsidized news agency founded by Ataturk in 6 April 1920. Today, it is commonly accepted that this Agency is way far from being a state news agency and has turned into a propaganda device of the ruling AKP.

Although it is publicly financed, this news agency is serving to a single political party and its fabricated news is diffused to all media the next day.

Few small media groups that are outside the pro-government “Pool (Havuz)” are engaged in efforts to prove that they are not pro-Gulenists. In this sense they too have become part of the pool media.

Besides, as Dogan Media Group was sold to a pro-Erdogan businessman, the term “pool” is no longer needed to describe pro-government media.

As known, the term “Havuz Medyasi” had been introduced when a media group was created with the money seized from some businesspeople and then directed to a pool (controlled by Erdogan).

Since then much has changed. All media outlets including publicly-funded state media, the “pool media” which was purchased with the seized money of some businesspeople, trustee-appointed Kurdish media and media outlets affiliated to the Hizmet Movement as well as those small scale opposition media which is under pressure have been tied to a single authority. All expenses of this huge media have been covered by public budget including secret fund, treasury resources, taxes and seized money of people. It is also claimed in the media that the payment for the purchase of the Dogan Media Group will be financed with the credit provided by state banks and secret fund, in other word, from the pockets of people.

Due to all these reasons, the term “Pool Media” is outdated. Time has come to throw it away to the dirty trash can of history.

I believe that the new concept needs to be “State Sponsored Affiliated Media (SSAM). Because its resources are public budget collected from taxpayers, seized assets of the people, usurped and trustee-appointed media of people. The media is “affiliated” since it is not free and under the control of a single person.

This SSAM, in a concerted way, is now pumping negative news about various issues in order to destroy recently raised hopes and determinance of people for the legal struggle.

The latest despairing propaganda was about the ECHR’s rejection of 31 thousand applications. This news was diffused as if the ECHR rejected the appeals on the ground that no human rights are violated in Turkey and it is a country where democracy, human rights and freedoms are at the highest standards like in the Nordic States.

However, the reality was totally different. The violations in Turkey and the absense of independent judiciary left people with no option but to appeal directly to the ECHR. In that sense, they did not went through internal legal remedies. There were two reasons for that: Either the legal remedies were blocked by the law, i.e. dismissal decisions or the courts were proved to be ineffective.

After examining the applications, the ECHR contacted with Turkish government and informed the latter that it will give violation rulings about the applications. Moreover, the ECHR did not hesitate to announce its perspective through media.

In response, Turkish government took some tactical steps. For instance, the “State of Emergency Procedures Investigations Commission” was established. Although the first violation ruling of the Constitutional Court about Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan cases was not implemented by the lower court, Sahin Alpay was later released with another ruling of the Constitutional Court only when Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, stated that the ECHR would accept the Constitutional Court as ineffective and would rule on thousands of applications accordingly.

By that way, the government got the opportunity to maintain its violations, while the ECHR gave time to the government to act in accordance with the rule of law.

The ECHR rejected some of the applications filed against Turkey which were in fact embarrassing but portrayed as a victory by the SSAM. I said the ECHR rejected the applications because there was no ruling based on the substantial examination of the files. From my research, I got the following details about the rejected applications:

  • Nearly all 31 thousand applications were rejected on the basis that they are made before completing the internal legal remedies
  • 26 thousands of them are about the dismissals by decree-laws and the ECHR referred them to the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission.
  • About a thousand of them are related to the dismissals of the judges and prosecutors for which the completion of internal legal remedies is required as the decree-law No: 685 opened the way for appealing to the Council of State
  • The ECHR rejected about 2 thousands applications, which were related to the arrests, on the ground that individual application to the Constitutional Court was not resorted as an internal remedy, or when applied, the decision of the Constitutional Court was not waited before appealing to the ECHR.
  • For the rest of the applications, some of them were rejected because they are not in the scope of the ECHR mandate and some were rejected because prosecution is still ongoing in domestic law.

As seen, the government was not found right as portrayed by the SSAM. Instead, the ECHR has only applied its own criteria to these files. The ECHR has long been rejecting the applications unless it sees the court of a country ineffective. The individuals have the right to renew their applications only when they complete all internal remedies. In case the court trials are protracted or not concluded in a reasonable length of time, it is possible to appeal directly to the ECHR without completing the internal remedies. For instance, those who are under arrest can appeal to the ECHR if their individual applications to the Constitutional Court are waiting for more than a year.

To conclude, those seeking justice should not fall into frustration and despair because of the propaganda of the SSAM. It should be kept in mind that pursuit of justice can take long time but there is a happy ending at the end of the process. By this way, a written heritage is left to the future generations. When they read the court decisions about this legal struggle, they will see hope, determination and conviction of their ancestors as well as the miserable defeat of those pitiful tyrants who took such unlawfull decisions.

Therefore, it is a responsibility of every victim whose rights are violated, regardless of their worldview and feelings, to maintain the pursuit of justice persistently by going through all legal mechanisms. This struggle should be not only before the ECHR but also before the UN, the Council of Europe, human rights organizations and all remedies of internal law system. If not, that would be playing into the hands of tyrant and oppressive regimes.

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