PHONE CALL WAKES UP HEADS OF STATE
As the danger in Libya grew, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu first called Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at midnight. After the call, the minister also woke Turkish President Abdullah Gul up around 1 a.m. and got permission to close down the Turkish embassy in Tripoli. Upon Gul's approval, the staff of the Turkish embassy proceeded to Tunisia from Libya.
TURKEY URGES GADHAFI TO LEAVE LIBYA
Turkey strongly urged Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to cede power and leave the country while defining the self-proclaimed Benghazi authority as its only counterpart in Libya, in a clear change of position since the beginning of crisis.
"A new term has begun in Libya's history. The words are over in the Libyan issue. What needs to be done at this point is for the Libyan leader to pull out from Libya and cede power immediately," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at a press conference in Istanbul on Tuesday. "Muammar Gadhafi should take this historic step for Libya's territorial integrity and peace."
Erdoğan's statement came a day after Turkey closed its embassy in Tripoli due to growing insecurity in the Libyan capital following the killing of Gadhafi's son and his three grandchildren. The closure of the embassy was followed by Erdoğan's statement on Tuesday that burned bridges with Gadhafi's regime. Under current conditions, Turkey's single diplomatic representation is in Benghazi, under the authority of the Libyan National Congress.
Diplomatic sources dismissed claims that the move meant recognizing the Benghazi authority. "We have already displayed our stance that we take them as a counterpart," sources stated. Italy and France have already recognized the congress as their official interlocutor.
Recalling that messages dispatched by Turkey were ignored by Gadhafi who preferred blood, tears, pressure and attacks on his own people instead of paying attention to advices and avoiding bloodshed, Erdoğan said: "Under current conditions, the best way is to return power to its genuine owners, the Libyan people. Libya is not the property of a single man or one family."
Erdoğan signaled that security could be provided to Gadhafi in a host country if he would take "this historic step." "The grief of losing a child and grandchildren is most painful. We know Gadhafi is suffering this pain. We want to remind him that it is inevitable for him to take this step for Libyan people not to suffer the same pains," he stated.
Describing the period in which Libya is passing through as "very difficult", Erdoğan said Turkey would continue to contribute to the Libyan people.
Benghazi as the single counterpart
Another important message Erdoğan gave in his statement was that Turkey would continue to work closely with the Libyan National Congress for the implementation of its road map for the solution of the Libyan crisis.
Appealing to the Libyan opposition, Erdoğan said: "It is vital that your struggle, your suffering result in an outcome that would embrace the whole Libyan people."
The road map Turkey announced in early April includes reaching a real truce, establishing secure zones and corridors to distribute humanitarian aid to Libyans and starting a political dialogue to kick start a democratic transformation process. However it fell short in satisfying the opposition groups as it did not explicitly call for Gadhafi to leave.
Erdoğan said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would join the Libya Contact Group meeting that will be held Wednesday in Rome and inform Turkey's partners on the developments.
Describing Turkey's stance vis-a-vis Libya as "humanitarian," Erdoğan said they were perfectly aware that some countries launched a smear campaign against Turkey that caused a misperception of the Turkish role among the rebels. "A kind of campaign was launched against Turkey in Libya which aimed at causing indignation among the dissidents though misinformation on Turkey's policies," Erdoğan said. "However, Turkey did not lose its cool-headedness and continued to follow a stable and consistent policy."
The country Erdoğan described is France though he did not name it in his press conference. Turkey and France emerged as sparring partners within NATO when the alliance discussed how to conduct military operations against Libya.
A group of rebels protested Turkey's consulate in Benghazi last month due to Ankara's insistence in keeping channels open with Gadhafi. Turkey shifted its position after the NATO summit in mid-April and intensified talks with self-proclaimed Benghazi authority.
Erdoğan's press conference also sent messages to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. "Hereby, I want to take the advantage of repeating our warnings to all countries in our neighborhood alongside with Libya. Equality, freedom, justice and democracy are not rights of certain countries and nations but these are legitimate rights of all humanity.
"Delaying, ignoring and denying these fundamental human rights only reflect suppression and despotism and not justice," he said.
In an emphasis on the changes in the world order, Erdoğan said it was unsustainable for leaderships to continue imposing oppression against own people seeking democracy. "We do not want new [massacres of ] Halapja, Hama and Humus and Bosnia."
ARRESTED JOURNALISTS POSE NO FLIGHT RISK, TURKISH DEPUTY PM SAYS
Two prominent journalists jailed recently in an ongoing coup-plot probe "would not escape if they were not under arrest," Turkey's deputy prime minister said Tuesday in the latest criticism of how the case has been handled.
"Arrest orders should not turn into a means of punishment," said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, addressing the arrests of journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener in connection with the investigation into the alleged Ergenekon gang.
"Arrest is exceptional; release and freedom [pending trial] should be the main principle," Arınç said. "We should think that people who are highly respected in society would not run away. Why would these people run away? Where would Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener run to, for instance?"
The arrests of the two journalists in early March – as well as the confiscation by police of an unpublished manuscript by Şık – has prompted strong domestic and international criticism of Turkey, which has 57 journalists in jail and between 700 to 1,000 ongoing trials that could result in the imprisonment of journalists, according to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, numbers.
Two journalists on trial for an analysis they wrote faced a judge on Monday, accused of "violating the secrecy" of the Ergenekon investigation and "indicating people as targets." The charges stem from an article Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Timur Soykan wrote for daily Radikal, "One Document, Three Scenarios," an analysis of the Action Plan for the Fight against Fundamentalism, an allegedly secret document written in 2009 by senior military officials.
The journalists were asked by the judge whether they would demand their verdict be deferred; in this case, the offender does not suffer any penalties, provided he or she does not repeat the same offense within five years.
Mavioğlu told the court, however, that he "cannot promise any guarantees that [he] would not commit the same offense in the next five years."
"I do not know how we could give any reassurances of not committing the same offense for five years in such an environment. We keep writing all the time," said Mavioğlu, who faces up to 6.5 years in prison.
"If a lawsuit is filed because of an article and one [published] photo, then it means people should not engage in journalism. The writing was entirely composed of an analysis. We were not the only ones to publish our views on this issue, either. Even the prime minister and the president have expressed their opinions," Mavioğlu told the judge. "If I were only struck by a random piece of misfortune, then I have nothing to say. I request to be tried in the same felon's dock as the prime minister and the president. I would be glad of being a partner in crime with them."
Mavioğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday that he is being tried in 10 different cases "because of articles and books" he has written.
"I don't believe there is justice anymore in Turkey," he said.
The latest annual press freedom index by the international group Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile ranked Turkey 138th among 175 countries, just above Ethiopia and Russia, and 16 spots lower than last year.
The imprisonment of journalists for doing their jobs is a disgrace to democracy in Turkey as the freedom to criticize, disagree, and raise doubt does not weaken a nation, yet makes a nation stronger, said Erik Bjerager, the President of World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers during a congress held on Tuesday.
"The government should not be afraid of oppositional criticism and it should not misuse laws to imprison journalists for their writings. Turkey imprisons more journalists than China and Iran," Bjerager told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in the Freedom of Journalists Congress held in Akatlar Congress Center in Istanbul.
Turkey ranking 138 within the Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders requires a new concept of democracy, said the president, saying that Turkey has a subtle approach to the suppression of press freedom. "On one hand, you cannot have such a congress in China, on the other hand the number of arrested journalists are fewer there compared to Turkey," said Bjerager.
Imprisoning journalists for their thoughts diminishes the entire society as people need diversity of thoughts and knowledge, and if a journalist is arrested, he should be told the specific charges against him, Christopher R. Conybeare, the secretary-general of World Association of Press Councils, or WAPC, told the Daily News.
"Journalists are entitled to have confidentiality of their sources in Turkey even though it is violated. In the U.S. law, journalists are not entitled to maintain a privacy of their sources. We have had journalists in the U.S. go to jail for refusing to reveal their sources. I do not think there is a single country that totally improves its press freedom. All of them should be able to do better," said Conybeare.
'WORRYING' DECLINE IN TURKEY'S PRESS FREEDOM, FREEDOM HOUSE SAYS
Turkey is 'moving in the wrong direction' in press freedom, according to a senior Freedom House researcher. Turkey had a significant decline of three points in the 'Freedom of the Press 2011: A Global Survey of Media Independence' list that was released earlier this week by the Washington-based advocacy group's latest press freedom index
The "significant" decline observed last year in press freedom in Turkey indicates the country is "moving in the wrong direction," a senior Freedom House researcher said Monday.
Turkey is still in the Partly Free category in the Washington-based advocacy group's latest press freedom index, but dropped by three points last year.
"Three points is considered a significant decline," Karin Deutsch Karlekar, a senior researcher at Freedom House, who served as managing editor of its Freedom of the Press 2011 survey, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a telephone interview Monday.
Released early this week, "Freedom of the Press 2011: A Global Survey of Media Independence," found that a number of key countries – including Egypt, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine and Turkey – experienced significant declines in press freedom last year. The result is a global landscape in which only one in six people live in countries with a press that is designated Free.
"In 2010, we saw a lot of worrying trends [in Turkey] and there is already an increased use of laws against journalists, particularly the anti-terrorism laws," Karlekar told the Daily News. "That led to increased self-censorship among Turkish journalists."
According to the study, the largest numerical change in the Western European region in 2010 was the decline in Turkey's score, which fell from 51 to 54 as a result of heightened harassment of journalists under a number of laws, including articles 301 and 216 of the Turkish penal code and anti-terrorism legislation.
Elsewhere in Western Europe, the report cited negative developments in Denmark and Iceland and indicated that the United Kingdom remains a concern due to its expansive libel laws, while heavy media concentration and official interference in state-owned outlets continues to hold Italy at Partly Free.
"In 2010 we saw significant decline in Turkey's score on the index. Already in 2011, the decline has continued because of the arrest of [more] journalists. We might expect Turkey to get worse next year because of what has happened to journalists recently," Karlekar said.
A number of journalists, including investigative reporters Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, were detained as part of a probe into an alleged organization purportedly aimed at toppling the government. The arrests drew adverse reactions from the European Union, the United States and human-rights watchdogs, casting serious doubts over press freedom in Turkey.
"Like the previous year, Turkey was categorized in 2010 as Partly Free but it is moving in the wrong direction," said Karlekar. "Some of the journalists detained last year are still in jail and have not yet been charged. That's a continuing concern."
The Freedom of the Press index assesses the degree of print, broadcast and Internet freedom in every country in the world, analyzing the events and developments of each calendar year. Ratings are determined through an examination of three broad categories: the legal environment in which media operate; political influences on reporting and access to information; and economic pressures on content and the dissemination of news.
Of the 196 countries and territories assessed during 2010, a total of 68 (35 percent) countries were rated Free, 65 (33 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 63 (32 percent) were rated Not Free. The survey found that only 15 percent of the world's inhabitants live in countries with a Free Press, while 42 percent have a Partly Free press and 43 percent live in Not Free environments.
10,000 PROTEST RAID ON MUNICIPALITIES
Nearly 10,000 people gathered at İzmir's Konak Square and protested against the police raid on municipalities in the western province. İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu addressed the crowd and said if there was corruption and malpractice in these municipalities, he would answer for it. "10 of 24 people who were taken into custody were released. We want the others to be released as well," he said.
Hürriyet daily newspaper entered into the shelter house in Abbottabad, Pakistan where al-Qaida's leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a night raid by U.S. Navy SEALs.
There are no traces of a large clash in the house, with only small-caliber bullet holes on the walls.
Residents of Bilal neighborhood cannot believe they were living side-by-side with the number-one terrorist of the world. Resident said, "children used to call this place 'a haunted house.'
Hundreds of teenagers rushed to Ankara to object the result of their first-leg university entrance exam. After giving petitions to the Student Selection & Replacement Center (ÖSYM), students opened banners and protested the developments saying that the results were not accurate. A teenager named İsmail Karakuş filed a lawsuit for cancellation of the examination, saying it was against the principle of equality to run a separate science test for 130 candidate university students who were in prison.
DEMOCRACY AND ERGENEKON CANNOT BE MEASURED ON SAME SCALE
Speaking in a meeting of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "you should be the voice and rebel against status quo in Anatolia. You have reached this dimension by taking the support of the nation, not gangs." The prime minister reacted strongly to the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who have nominated suspects of Ergenekon case as candidate MPs. Erdoğan said, "Those who protect gangs can never become democrats."
WATER ACCESS CRUCIAL FOR MIDEAST PEACE, OIC SAYS AT GLOBAL CONFERENCE
Ensuring reliable access to water is crucial to promoting peace and security in the Middle East, where many countries are facing dramatic declines in available water, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, said Tuesday.
"In some regions of the Muslim world, water availability is predicted to be cut in half by 2050 – even without taking into consideration the effects of climate change," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said in his opening speech at the 2nd Istanbul International Water Forum, held at the Haliç Congress Center from May 3 to 5.
The OIC chief called for increased cooperation among member states and countries outside the region, announcing the group's progress in preparing its own "Water Vision" document and forming an OIC Water Council to address water-related concerns.
"In its first phase, the Water Vision will outline a framework of cooperation on water-related issues in terms of water-sharing experience, capacity development, technology transfer, water governance and institutional reforms," İhsanoğlu said.
He mentioned the Friendship Dam, to be constructed on the Orontes River at the Turkish-Syrian border, as an excellent example of cooperation and peace among neighboring countries in the field of water. "I hope that other OIC countries will follow with similar examples," he said, adding that all OIC members recognize that achieving sustainable water security depends as much on the economic conditions and organizational capacities of member states as on water availability.
Ministers from OIC countries agreed at the 5th World Water Forum, held in Istanbul in 2009, to prepare a Water Vision and establish a Water Council.
Meeting the OIC's objectives can be facilitated through connecting "excellence centers" among all member countries to encourage dialogue and the exchange of experiences, and to promote concrete action for addressing water-related problems in the region, İhsanoğlu said. "Such interaction will also lead to increasing attention to the need for integrating water-security issues into the development strategies of the OIC member states," he added.
WATER CRUCIAL FOR PEACE
"Water should be a source of cooperation and friendship, rather than conflicts," Turkish Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu told a group of journalists Tuesday. "We believe water [is a source] of rapprochement and cooperation with neighboring countries and other countries in the region." He added that Turkey had concluded many bilateral agreements in the field of water management with its neighbors, including Iraq, Syria and Greece.
Kenya's minister for water and irrigation, Charity Ngilu, also stressed the importance of water in promoting peace, especially in regions where water scarcity prevails. "There have been many conflicts caused by water scarcity not only among African countries, but even within regions of the same country," Ngilu told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday, after the forum's opening ceremony.
She also said Kenya would ask Turkey for cooperation and assistance in water management and other related issues.
TURKEY 'A GREAT HYDRAULIC COUNTRY'
Turkey already plays a very important role in water issues in the world, according to Loic Fauchon, the president of the World Water Council, which organized the forum. "Turkey is a great hydraulic country and Turkish explorers are known all over the world," Fauchon told the Daily News on Tuesday, after the event's opening ceremony.
He said Turkey had made a lot of progress concerning policies on dams, which he said are essential for the provision of water even though they are sometimes criticized.
"Turkey has also done a great job in bringing water resources to residents of big cities such as Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara," Fauchon said, adding that Turkey's large public and private companies were some of the best in the Mediterranean area.
"Turkey will play a more important role in the coming years," he said.
THE TIME OF EASY WATER IS OVER
The time of "easy water" is over, according to Fauchon, who said past efforts by countries to increase water resources were no longer sufficient.
"We need to also decrease the demand for water, and develop regulation of demand policies," he said, calling on states to also increase their priorities on water-related issues. "Water issues are more a priority today than 15 years ago, and we need to make them a priority for real, not just a priority in speeches."
The world's water consumption will increase by 40 percent over the next two decades and efforts to meet this demand must increase radically, according to Oktay Tabasaran, the secretary-general of the 5th World Water Forum.
"Water consumption will increase by 40 percent in the coming 20 years, reaching 6.9 trillion cubic meters per year [compared to 4.5 trillion used currently], and an amount of $200 billion must be spent annually in order to afford this," Tabasaran said Tuesday in his opening speech at the this week's forum.
He said such figures indicated the urgent need for countries to engage in efficient cooperation with each other to address water-related issues.
Some 50 out of the world's 188 countries experience serious concerns in providing drinking and irrigation water, due to careless and inefficient use of water, according to İsmail Uğur, the general director of Turkey's State Waterworks Authority, or DSİ, who also made a speech at the forum.
"If we fail to come up with solutions, starting from 2015 there will be droughts [in many parts of the world] and people will start suffering from diseases caused by lack of water, as of 2025," Uğur said.