I will carry on from where I left off yesterday in my article about the community’s “exemplary journalistic” activity.
(Community is the term used to refer to the Fethullah Gülen-led movement.)
The community started taking systematic action against the Anadolu Agency, or AA, from 2012 onward due to the launch of our Arabic services and the News Academy. In 2013, following an article by Ekrem Dumanlı (editor-in-chief of Zaman newspaper) which served as a signal to commence, negative coverage peaked in all media connected to the community.
They mostly kept on repeating the same things but the primary source was the information gleaned from a draft prepared by experts at the Court of Accounts/Audits. This information, without mentioning the source, was first used to pen articles in the Taraf newspaper, then the Zaman newspaper and other newspapers of the community. All the false information in those news articles was repeatedly refuted, but no retraction was ever published.
OPPOSITION PARLIAMENTARIANS JOINING THE CAMPAIGN
Parliamentarians from the CHP (Republican People’s Party) and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) converted these news articles into parliamentary questions and sent them to the government. Then the parliamentary questions were made into news articles by the community’s media, stating that “Parliament has intervened in the AA debates.”
The responses to these questions were also published as separate news articles. These parliamentary questions, of which there were nearly 50, were all submitted by parliamentarians with close ties to the community.
Meanwhile, anonymous letters of complaint were sent to the Prime Ministry stating that there were issues regarding the AA’s tax payments. The Prime Ministry’s Supervisory Board saw no need to take any action concerning these strange and inconsequential complaints.
Despite no one being aware of this, news articles titled “Supervisory Board launches investigation into AA” appeared in the community’s media and the Hürriyet newspaper. These news articles were again converted to parliamentary questions, which in turn led to more news articles. Bear in mind that all these news articles were also simultaneously translated into English and spread via the Today’s Zaman newspaper, media sites, Twitter and other social media sites.
BEING MADE MEMBERS OF TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS
We experienced a second shock when the Dec. 17, 2013 coup attempt was made. We learned that a wiretap was placed on the AA switchboard and the phone conversations of many managers, including myself, were illegally being recorded. We filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor should us the court orders permitting the wiretaps. They had made my friends and me members of an imaginary terrorist organization.
One aspect drew my attention. The date when the decision was made to place an illegal wiretap on me was not in 2011, when I was press advisor to the prime minister and when I had joined the AA. It was again in 2012 i.e. the time when our Arabic services had started to become effective in all of the Middle East.
The prosecution’s information regarding these imaginary charges of membership in an organization was leaked as well, and published in the community’s media and on social media sites. While I was at the prosecutor’s office I realized, however, that we had just managed to steer clear of the brink of a major disaster. I saw that these people were so overcome with rage that they even recorded my private conversations that I had with my family and dear ones.
DETRIMENTAL MEETINGS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The community, after Dec. 17, organized meetings in many Arab countries, particularly in Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Dubai and Egypt; and provided the stage for journalists from Zaman, Cihan and Bugün to talk. All the speakers, while vilifying the government and Turkey, remembered to besmirch the AA as well.
Furthermore, they ensured that detrimental news articles appeared in media outlets that they had ties to. In response, as the AA, we too organized meetings in these countries, and introduced the institution and refuted the baseless claims about Turkey. The community’s journalists continued to organize their detrimental meetings in Africa and Asia.
MAIN ATTACK CAME DURING LOCAL ELECTIONS
The principal operations by the community that targeted the AA came prior to the local elections of March 30, 2014. The announcement by the AA that for the first time it would publish results from the ballot boxes as an alternative to Cihan was a cause of great consternation in that front. One week before the elections, a news article appeared on the front page of Taraf newspaper stating that the AA would manipulate the election results.
For almost an entire week such false news articles were published as banner headlines. As usual, these articles also started being published by Zaman and other newspapers of the community; became parliamentary questions, which in turn was made into news again; and this circle continued.
We experienced another nightmare on election night. The hacker known as Redhack (supposedly communist) issued a call to all hacker groups worldwide to attack the AA on election night. The AA, on election night, was left facing a cyber attack, the likes of which it had never experienced before. Our system didn’t crash, as a result of the precautions we had taken beforehand but it was slowed down for two hours.
The same evening the deputy leaders and leadership candidates of the CHP and MHP held four press conferences and claimed the AA had manipulated the election results, citing the different results announced by the Cihan News Agency. These claims gained a lot of traction. Calls were even made on social media to launch a physical attack on the agency, and all of the AA’s switchboards were overwhelmed with incoming calls.
However, the AA was successful in posting the election results that night. I realized that even the possibility of civil war breaking out existed had the AA not been there as an alternative and provided the results that night.
In the days following the elections, the traces left by the hacker called Redhack were identified and the trace extended to the computers being used by the community’s police officers working as intelligence operatives. However, nobody was caught.
YOU CAN NOW SLOWLY PUT YOUR PEN AWAY
The court found that Taraf and Zaman newspapers had published false news and they were forced to publish retractions. However, they never stopped publishing news detrimental to the AA.
Let’s see if the foreign press -- which pays attention to what the community’s media says in public and to the international press that it faces pressure due to its journalistic activities – takes any heed of what I have written. Of course it won’t.
To Ekrem Dumanlı I have this to say: (drawing inspiration from a wonderful sentence by Yıldıray Uğur.) Take that Montblanc pen you hold in your hands and slowly put it in your pocket; and take care never to tell anyone again that you are a journalist.