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    Wikileaks a la Turca

    Güven Sak, PhD08 March 2014 - Okunma Sayısı: 1921

    Turks have a new pastime. They are addicted to listening to and commenting on the wiretappings of their leaders. They are all about illicit deals and activities of the country’s ruling elite, containing the violation of the rule of law, the separation of powers and good governance. It’s like watching a car crash – you can’t look away, and Turks are Googling the new episodes of the saga every day. Well, not all Turks, of course. Only half of them have Internet access. So it is the dominantly urban, male and Western part of Turks that have access to the real thing. Transcripts of the recordings are published in newspapers promptly the day after. I call it Wikileaks a la Turca.  Let me tell you the pattern and its differences from the real thing.

    First of all, let me highlight a similarity. The original Wikileaks and then the Snowden files all infuriated the United States government. It was a real leak, and as such always an embarrassment. You never knew what could leak. Wikileaks a la Turca infuriated the ruling elite of Turkey, too. Yet there is a fundamental difference: the original Wikileaks and the Snowden files were all about government policies, not about individuals’ money or violations of the integrity of judiciary proceedings. Our leaks were rather personal, which made them infuriating to select persons.   

    Secondly, in the original cases, there were no audio recordings on the Internet. They were all written reports and assessments. The Wikileaks and Snowden files were produced by a written culture. The Turkish version however, is audiovisual. With average schooling in Turkey at around 6.5 years, Wikileaks a la Turca indeed cannot take any other form. Every country deserves to have their version of Wikileaks commensurate with its cultural development level. Turkey is not in the written culture stage yet. Who would have read all those reports if they were written? A look at the sharp drop in newspaper sales over the past few years will be telling here. I doubt that a tenth of the population would be aware of them if the leaks were in written format. Listening is definitely easier.  

    Thirdly, in the case of both the original Wikileaks and the Snowden files, the information was processed and reported by journalists at the outset. No such thing in Wikileaks a la Turca. This may be related with the fact that Turkey has already surpassed China in jailing journalists. No wonder the a la Turca version is different in terms of its channel of dissemination. Our saga is happening thanks to the fact that Youtube and Facebook have not been banned in the country, yet. Just you wait!

    The fourth and final pattern is this: in both the original Wikileaks and the Snowden cases, single individuals have been found and accused as the culprit. Yet in our case, there is no individual to accuse for the leak yet. There are unidentified gangsters acting in cohesion, yet no legal action has been taken on anyone in particular. That is part of the bigger picture in dealing with crime in Turkey, I suppose. In America the mechanism works, but not in Turkey.


    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 08.03.2014