Hürriyet, one of Turkey’s leading dailies, has attracted widespread criticism from supporters of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a story published on February 24 titled “Seven Answers to Seven Criticisms” under the heading, “Military Headquarters is Disturbed.”
Though Hürriyet insists the piece was simply “a story about how the General Staff evaluated the latest criticisms that have frequently been voiced,” and that the story included responses to each criticism, AKP supporters have accused the newspaper of provoking a coup.
The journalist who published the piece, Hande Fırat, was celebrated last year for having played a pivotal role in thwarting the July 15 coup. When President Erdogan appeared on CNN Türk over FaceTime to call on the nation to flood the streets and fight the coup, it was Hande Fırat who held the iPhone that facilitated his appearance. Fırat even received an award from Aydın Doğan, the owner of Hürriyet, for arranging The Media Event of the Year.
Now, Hürriyet and Aydın Doğan are being accused of provoking a coup by setting the military against the government. Pro-government newspapers such as Sabah have responded to the “Military Headquarters is Disturbed” story with headlines like “Doğan is Disturbed.” Journalists have also taken to Twitter to voice their criticisms. Pro-government journalists such as Hilal Kaplan have used hashtags targeting Aydın Doğan and Doğan Media Group insisting that they be held accountable for their actions. Ömer Turan, a media personality who is known a radical supporter of the AKP, posted tweets demanding that the General Staff denounce Hürriyet’s piece, and insisting that Hürriyet’s story was a memorandum, referencing the memorandum published by the military that acted as catalyst for the 1997 post-modern coup that ousted a previous Islamist government.
Yigit Bulut, Turkish President Erdogan’s top adviser, who is known by his far out commentaries also took the social media and challenged those who want to topple the Erdogan government. Bulut did not particularly singled out the Military but his tweets appeared to be targeting both Hurriyet and the Military.
Among the things that created disturbance in the military was the recent lifting of the headscarf ban on female soldiers. According to Hurriyet sources the General Staff was not included in the process regarding recent amendments by the Defense Ministry to lift the ban on women soldiers wearing headscarves.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also weighed in through a speech on February 26 with allusions to the 1997 coup: “Remember before, they would use headlines to keep governments in check. AKP came to power, and now establishing or destroying governments with headlines became a thing of the past…Now I see they are trying to do the same thing again. They are trying to keep the government in check through their headlines.”
Many critics of the AKP government, on the other hand, took the social media to argue that this was an AKP planned and engineered story to help Erdogan to tighten the gap between leadership vs rank and file in the face of, what appears to be according to the story, a new Military rebellion ahead of the elections.
Critics argue, the fact that Hande Firat who already declared previously that she will vote “yes” in the referendum penned the story, and it was the General Chief of Staff gave the interview and complained about the opposition parties, among other things, the story does not make much sense.
Some media figures who are known to be fierce Erdogan supporters (or Erdoganist) tweeted to say prosecutors are already getting ready to launch an investigation against Hurriyet’s owner Aydin Dogan.
AKP administrations, over the years, have been known by their usage of “victimhood” against “tutelages” to gather more votes. The Turkish Military’s memorandum in 2007 helped AKP in the election enormously, which led the way for Abdullah Gul to cling the presidential palace. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim already began using the Hurriyet story in his campaign on Sunday, challenging the military.
There are still many questions lingering about the story.