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Echoes of a coup (March 2007)

An issue of news magazine, Nokta
An issue of news magazine, Nokta

In March 2007, the current affairs weekly Nokta published a series of articles investigating the military's activities against the ruling AKP government.

On 29 March, Nokta published excerpts of a diary, alleged to have been written by Admiral Ozden Ornek, the former navy commander, and left inadvertently on his laptop. The diary entries contain detailed plans for a military coup, prepared jointly by the commanders of the army (Aytac Yalman), navy (Ornek himself), the air force (Ibrahim Firtina) and the gendarmerie (Sener Eruygur) in 2004. According to the diary, it was only the opposition of the Chief of Staff at the time, Hilmi Ozkok, which prevented the coup plans from being put into action. The code name for the coup was "Blond Girl". Later, these dairies suggest, Sener Eruygur had begun to plan another coup, code named "Moonlight."

Another Nokta article on 5 April was based on a leaked report prepared by the Office of the Chief of General Staff. It described a secret categorization of press outlets and journalists into pro-military and anti-military groups. The claim was not denied by the military, although internal investigations were undertaken to uncover who was responsible for leaking the 'blacklist.'

In a speech on 11 April, General Chief of Staff Yasar Buyukanit alluded to the publication of coup plans from the alleged diary by accusing some media outlets of using "information and documents, the sources of which are questionable" and "tampering with pictures to lead to different meanings" in order to "shape the political developments in the country and divert attention from the real problems."

On 12 April, Nokta's offices were raided by the police in a 3-day operation at the request of the military prosecutor. Subsequently, the owner of the magazine decided to shut it down altogether. Editor-in-chief Alper Gormus gave a press conference on 21 April 2007:

"I did not decide to close the journal, but I can tell you my impressions. The owner of the journal Ayhan Durgun did not mention to me any economical or political pressure. On the other hand he was feeling some kind of tension for the last few weeks. None of the politicians in Turkey said even a sentence about the pressures on Nokta. Under these circumstances there was no way not to feel pressure."

Ragip Duran, a former Nokta journalist, referred in Today's Zaman on 21 April 2007 to Nokta's closure as "an extremely negative situation. This clearly shows that there is no freedom of expression in Turkey." Human Rights Watch reported after the raid against Nokta:

"The military prosecutor issued the search warrant on the basis of an article published by Nokta on April 5 examining alleged links between the Office of the Chief of Staff and some civil society organizations.[4] This article was of great topical interest given that large anti-government rallies were then being organized by some civil society organizations. Nokta reproduced, as the main source for the report, a 2004 document alleged to come from the intelligence department of the Office of the Chief of Staff that revealed the military's links with some civil society organizations and universities, and Nokta questioned whether in the present situation there were also elements of civil society that were not really "civilian."

Alper Gormus is currently facing trial for slander. Thus, the outcome of the Nokta affair is that it is the journalists, not the potential coup plotters, who are under investigation.

[4] "Gunumuzde sivil eylemler ne kadar sivil?" ("How civilian are the civil [society] demonstrations today?"), Nokta magazine, (Istanbul), April 5, 2007.

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