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HomeHeadlineTowards 2023 Turkey Runoff: Letter of Inquiry (3)

Towards 2023 Turkey Runoff: Letter of Inquiry (3)

Towards 2023 Turkey Runoff: Letter of Inquiry (3)

In the two previous “Letter of Inquiry”  seriesanalyzing the irregularity and fraud practices during the May 14, 2023 Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections and a very likely subsequent similar  shadow threat hovering over the 28 May runoff, the inability of the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to deliver the goods was laid bare.

Similarly, the Presidency, meaning the office of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was identified as the cause of all this evil along the lines of the “causa causae est causa causati” Latin phrase maxim, contextually translating into: “He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused (the bad effect).”

This last “Letter of Inquiry (3) installment goes on show how,   argue and sum up that, ceteris paribus – meaning other things remaining equal —this evil cannot take place without the public being polarized, to which effect, muzzling the independent media becomes a must. A sine qua non, so to say; something without which nothing is possible.

The looming question, therefore, is how has the Erdogan regime succeeded to polarize the Turkish society to the extent of making able people fail to see and recognize the wrongs right in front their nose and, instead, fear the unknown and make wrong choices? How has Erdogan managed to make his oppressed victims say “no” to freedom; vote for vices, prefer hell on earth to heaven or go for one-man rule instead of democracy? That is the question about the Turkey of Erdogan and ruling, now definitely pseudonym Justice and Development (AKP) Party because there is nothing like it subsisting there.

In this respect, the Romans also left behind a relevant maxim: “Timendi causa est nescire”, which means: “The cause of fear is ignorance(the state of not knowing). And this time around, rather than attract people of the laws, “timendi causa est nescire” is all aboutpractitioners of medicine and psychologists. Both agree that such a state in society can only arise from fear and that the fear must emanate from and be attained through strategically planned, instituted and maintained public ignorance. Even if it also means using force and threats to enforce it, so long as the end result is achieved – this time around in Turkey, continued Erdogan-AKP and ally rule.

Medical doctors and psychologists argue that Ignorance is the root cause of the anxiety we face when dealing with the unknown. It then becomes difficult to control thoughts that wonder/wander from one worry to another. We fear what will happen to us when we face an unknown situation in the future. Life becomes the point at issue. Under such circumstances, we can do anything.

Looked at critically, Ignorance is the lack of relevant knowledge in a particular situation. To acquire knowledge, information is vital — the reason for which Erdogan has been very particular about media control. Since he came to power until when you are reading this analysis, his regime has gone all out to control every column centimeter, wavelength, and now the connectivity of social media networks. He only gives in if he stands to gain something out of the exercise. Otherwise, the public must be starved of information that leads them to acquire the knowledge upon which they can make informed decisions about how their country should be run.

Without having to dig through the rubble of details of allegations pertaining to the 2014, 2017, and 2019 polling exercises and the sad story of the print, radio and TV media, it suffices, for the purpose of the  Letter of Inquiry (3) to focus on odds that the Erdogan government has stacked heavily in its favours ahead of and during the current critical polling season in terms of social media, in particular, so as to remain in power.

Of course, the efforts of President Erdogan to control social media go back to more than ten years. But this time around ahead of the polls, he saw the social media as a sort of secret weapon drawing on experiences of the European Union’s digital services rules to strengthen control over digital platforms.

In the process, Erdogan and his ruling AKP have sort of crafted the rules, the likes of the PRO in The Animal Farm, diversifying them to suit their purpose of remaining in power. For example, while the EU rules proscribe fines of up to six percent of a company’s revenue for wrongdoing, Erdogan has also provided for sentences of up to five years if people post content online that spreads “information that is inaccurate” in ways that “disrupt Turkey’s domestic and external security.” Individual journalists could similarly go to prison for writing “unfavourable stories” to the ruling party or spreading “fake news” about the government. Some of them are already there.

Just a day before the May 14 presidential and parliamentary polls, the government ordered Twiter to the block accounts identified in a court order. These included   those of local opposition public figures, a Kurdish businessman Muhammed Yakut and investigative journalist Cevheri Guven. The move triggered a backlash against Elon Musk for complying with the order.

Wikipedia founder argued that Elon Musk was wrong to block the tweets during the elections because it denied the people free access to information. Musk responded that he did so because the government had threatened to block the whole site in the case of failure to comply. In total, 409 accounts were reported to have been affected by the government order definitely with a calculated reflection on the poll results because the closed accounts were of those taken for dissidents.

State-owned Anadolu Agency was criticized for having a unique algorithm that initially assigns high scores to President Erdogan  but eventually evens out the scores over time; a method that undermines the motivation of poll observers who are still monitoring the vote count at the ballot boxes. The criticisms  were hinged on its May 14 elections  modus operandi  providing support to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) tactics through spreading a negative perception among the opposition’s voter base on the election night. This puts to question Anadolu’s earlier pledge of ethical client service. 

Ten people were detained and released after giving statements to the police. They were detained when the police intervened in their “democracy watch” held in front of the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) provincial and central district office in Ankara in protest against discrepancy between the election results released by the YSK and the data from the signed and stamped vote counts. They had a software that could compare the two.

To cap the government’s effort to keep the people strategically uniformed about what was going on with the polls so that they could make uninformed vote cast in favour of Erdogan and AKP parliamentarians, Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate spent nearly TL 283 million ($14.3 million) in April which corresponds to 43.7 percent of its total expenditure during the first quarter of 2023.

Main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, earlier raised concerns on social media and warned Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun over potential cyber interference in the vote count,   along the “Cambridge Analytica-style” tactics which manipulated voter data and targeted political advertising during the 2016 US presidential election campaigns. Altun is also blamed for spreading misinformation and disinformation about Erdogan’s opponents. 

That precisely paints the picture of how and why the Erdogan government has been serious at controlling the media, the social networks at this time, in particular, as part of its sine-qua-non component for remaining in power after a 20-year rule, through, among others, instilling fear among the electorate, prompting them into the non-delivering better-the-devil-you-know voting process. What else is there to speculate from the devil except hell?

Best wishes to the people of Turkey on the presidential runoff. Can they repeat the Istanbul and Ankara municipal runoff story?

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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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