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Erdogan’s Ibrahim Kalin lesson for all ages

“That is the PKK speaking; that is FETO speaking.” These are some of the words with which Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, literally retorted to Swedish TV journalist, Diamant Salihu, upon being asked, among others, “if Turkey is becoming a new centre for drug dealers”.

Without having to say much about the episode-like incident that brought the interview to an abrupt, unceremonious vertical end, all that transpired is reminiscent of many cases. It is about morals; what it takes to be a politician; the way we judge others; doing something wrong and denying it, tolerance, pretense, professionalism, name it. It is a lesson for all ages to learn from the way Erdogan’s spokesman conducted himself. If the interview were a music concert, I would call it a cacophony. 

As a journalist, I would have very liked to start at home like charity but this would be a somehow lobe-sided approach because despite this truth, charity is not supposed to end there. It is something meant to be shared. So, almost as a reflex action, the Kalin interview took me to about 400 years before the birth of Christ, normally referred to as BC.

I remembered Socrates, the Greek philosopher taken for the founder of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers of the ethical tradition of thought.  Just briefly, Socrates held that “ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.”   He was charged with corrupting the youth, he was tried and convicted in one day and sentenced to death through forced suicide by poisoning. And he executed the order because of his moral standing.

Socrates had chance to say that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  What made the Turkish president’s spokesman explode, lose temper upon being asked  if it had not become his country’s policy to provide a haven for drug dealers? Could it be a case of the Swahili Coast Mkuki kwa nguruwe, mchungu kwa binadamu” observation, meaning the spear is fine for a pig but bitter for human?

Was Kalin failed by his memory? Salihu advanced that there were many drug dealers and crime gang members living in Turkey and who are wanted by Swedish Police. He went on to ask “if Turkey is becoming a new centre for drug dealers.” Turkey has accused Sweden of becoming a haven for dissidents whom it wants extradited. Why have both countries’ reactions to a similar question differed to the proportions of a hydrogen bomb?

A section of Kalin’s response accusing Salihu of not practicing “honest journalism” and having a “different” agenda, which he assigns to PKK and FETO, brings into question another Socrates’ observation that “a system of morality which is based on a relative emotional values is a mere illusion thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.”   

Could Kalin have at the back of his mind the disturbing grand corruption taking place in Turkey; proven involvement of Turkish leaders in drug dealing; the close touch of the government and mafia gangs as revealed by Mafia leader Peker; taking every Kurd, born and yet to be born, a criminal and those perceived as members of the Hizmet Movement, their children of all ages and however-distant relatives as terrorists? How about the July 2016 coup that now the whole world knows was cooked and consequent of which hundreds of thousands of the Turkish people have lost jobs, been tried on framed up charges and jailed or forced to live in exile?

It is here that the words of Said Nursi come to memory when he says: “I seek refuge (in) Allah from Satan and politics”. This is why he shunned both and because of that he has remained a renowned intellectual to the present day. Looked at from a critical point of view, politics, alongside its power twin, makes potential intellectuals lose ethical tradition of thought. Short of becoming somehow insane, their ability to differentiate between dying (the process) and death (the absolute) ceases. Could Kalin have become one of such victims? That is the question.  

It is here also that one can recall what satirical writer George Orwell said that “political language … is designed to make lies sound trustful and murders respectable, and give an appearance of solidarity in pure wind.” How else would one explain politics behind the Erdogan regime’s cross border air raids on so-called PKK/PYG sites in Iraq and Syria? Aren’t the civilians dying there not being murdered? They are. And Erdogan wants the world to support him on this.

Martin L. Gross must have been right when he said “we live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy.” Which Erdogan’s regime syllogism is this? Irrespective of whether Muslim clergy Fethullah Gulen was the mastermind of the July 2016 coup, how can one jump to the conclusion that anybody who bears the Gulen surname is “guilty”?  If you find a 23-year-old youth in jail for participating in a coup that took place when that person was seventeen, how do you connect the alleged crime and the age of the criminal? What sort of governance and the rule of law is in operation?

Could former U.S. President Ronald Regan have also been right when he observed: “Government exists to protect us from each other. When government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” Hasn’t the Turkish Government crossed this border in pretending to protect Turkish citizens it deems to be pro-Kurd and those with Gulen links from themselves as citizens?  And what does that mean of a government in power? Worse still, there is proven evidence of the Turkish government supporting terror groups. How does one describe the ethical status of the rulers?

 To round off the Kalin-Salihu interview ugly incident, it is worth noting that when judging professional ethics, one has to be careful to keep a safe distance. One has to be cautious because based on a Latin “Nemo dat quod non habet” rule – meaning no one can give what he does not have – we can derive a “Non das quod not habes” advice – meaning you cannot give what you don’t have.

Kalin had no competence to refer to Salihu as not practicing “honest” journalism.  Living in glass Turkey where journalism is dead for all practical purposes, he had to appreciate that he is not supposed to throw stones. Where is honest journalism in Turkey under the pool media system locally known as “Havuz medyasi”?

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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