Finkel’s Dilemma

By | April 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm | 6 comments | Featured, Freedom of Expression, News, Opinion, Turkey | Tags: , ,

Andrew Finkel, renown columnist of Today’s Zaman, the english edition of Turkish daily Zaman was fired because of an article he wrote (but not published).

Zaman papers are owned by Fethullan Gülen movement and considered to be close to AKP government. Lately Islamist Gülen’s followers were accused of infiltrating security forces ranks as well as bureaucratic ranks. A book written by Ahmet Şık about Gülen’s organization was banned before it was published and Şık was arrested.

In the article that caused him his job Finkel writes about his hopes and aspirations when he accepted the position of a columnist in Today’s Zaman:

“Turkey is a nation which has declared itself engaged in a process of reform. It is redefining many of its values. It is re-examining [the] cherished notion of sovereignty as it negotiates with Brussels. It is rethinking international priorities as it eyes troubles in the Middle East. It is looking harder at the received wisdom about its history and traditions. At the ballot box, in the work place or in meetings with teachers after school, it is redefining the individual’s relationship to the community and the state. This is not a time for ‘us’ and ‘them’, for one set of truths for home and one set for abroad.”

But recently, especially after his comments on Şık’s arrest, things seem to alter for Finkel:

“I have already expressed my concern that the fight against anti-democratic forces in Turkey has resorted to self-defeating anti-democratic methods. This in turn has led to a polarization in Turkey. If your side loses power then the natural fear is that they will use your methods against you. In case this sounds like I am speaking in riddles, I am referring to the aggressive prosecution of people who write books. These may be bad books, they may be books which are written with ulterior motives, they may be books which contain assertions which are not true. But at the end of the day, they are books – and there are libel courts – not criminal courts – designed to protect individuals from malicious falsehood. In short, writing a book offensive to the Gülen community is not a crime.


we can only question the motives of those who don’t want us to read it. It blackens the names of the censors, increases the credibility of a book which no one has even read. It’s also extremely foolish because in an age of Internet, you can’t actually stop people from whispering your backs. The point about the ostrich with its head in the sand is that it only fools itself.”

Finkel’s words speak for themselves. They are living proof that in Turkey if you criticize the government, or one of the Islamist groups upon which the government’s power on public is based, your world as you know it ends abruptly. You are fired and ex-communicated if you are a foreigner. If you are Turkish, you find yourself behind bars until you see the verdict in your day at court. Which seldom comes within months, or years, usually within decades.

Yes, Turkey is a constitutional democracy. And yes, in Turkey press is free.


Quotes from Finkel’s article courtesy of Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

About the Author

Stratos Moraitis Stratos Moraitis

Blogger, writer & photographer of a free nature with a focus on human rights & minority issues in Turkey,Greece and Middle East. Follow Stratos at Twitter: @oemoral and Like our page at Facebook


  1. Zeynep Sari (6 years ago)

    The whole ‘Gulen movement’ is a farce disguising itself (and may I say, very thinly,) as a humanitarian movement pretending to promote tolerance between different cultures. The only culture these ‘sakirts’ (i.e. the followers) are aware of and adherent to is one which considers everyone but Sunni Muslims infidels that need to be eliminated. They are ignorant, bigoted and tend to sport very unappealing moustaches. You cannot help but feel sorry for the likes of Mr Finkel who naively think that these people are the key in the democratization of Turkey and who therefore happily associate themselves with their various publications only to be jettisoned at the first disagreement they dare to voice over the unlawful and immoral actions of the Gulenist police force and others placed strategically in important public offices. Perhaps better luck next time Mr Finkel.

  2. Egeli (6 years ago)

    The whole fear of “Gulen movement” is based on not facts but some speculative, misleading assessments on the movement. For one thing, the claim that anyone criticizing the AKP or the Gulen movement is destined to face prosecution is outright false and unfair. There are various writers or columnists in papers like Hurriyet, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, who criticize some action either by the AKP or the Gulen movement but not face arrest or investigation. There are tens of books written against Fethullah Gulen and the movement in his name, calling him all kinds of names and treating him like he is bent on destroying the Turkish republic. These books are published, sold, and bought everywhere. Where is this censorship you are talking about?

    Besides, why not say one thing about the statement made the other day by Fethullah Gulen, where he rejected any involvement in the Ahmet Sik case. Is Gulen so untrustworthy that nothing he says is not even heard and anything told against Gulen is to be believed and trusted? Is this the principle Strator follows?

    where is the evident to the claim that the Gulen movement people think everyone except Sunni Muslims are infidels and need to be eliminated? I mean, what is more bigoted view than talking about people’s mustaches because they are unappealing to one’s own taste?

    One action by the Gulen media makes such a big noise but dirty tactics employed by the other media outlets like Odatv are never talked about. This double talk is nonsense, misleading, and unfair.

    • Stratos (6 years ago)

      A crime is not a crime when perpetrated against every single one. A crime is a crime when done once. Your arguments lack common sense. The attributions made in the article are based solely on Gulen’s own statements, but not what you defend above. The article does not defend most of your accusations. You are generalizing. Finkel’s words are simple;

      “These may be bad books, they may be books which are written with ulterior motives, they may be books which contain assertions which are not true. But at the end of the day, they are books – and there are libel courts – not criminal courts – designed to protect individuals from malicious falsehood.”

      There are more journalists in jails more than any legitimate government rule in the past in Turkey. As a journalist I will not even try to explain to you the pressures on media both political and economical.

      I speak in numbers, you say we have to trust in Gülen. The question is obvious; why? Why would I trust someone who championed in his writings and speeches the need to infiltrate state organizations to hold power in Turkey’s destiny? I’m not arguing that only Gülen supporters do that. And maybe it is even conceivable. But when an effort resorts to fascist tactics and authoritarian interventions, it is every journalist’s responsibility to uncover the truth and fight against it.

      Thank you for your input.

      • Egeli (6 years ago)

        Thank you for your reply.

        – I don’t know of any writing by Gulen asking “infiltration” into the government institutions. If there is one, please provide. Please don’t talk about the famous speech as it has been disputed by many including Gulen.

        – Infiltration is such a bad term that I don’t think it applies to someone who is encouraging citizens of the same thought to be a better government officials or employees in their own government. If this is infiltration, the biggest one is done by pro-CHP elements in Turkey who insistently fill key positions in judiciary, military, and other high level bureaucracy levels with their own people.

        – Still, the biggest mistake committed in your article and replies is the direct connection between Gulen and the so-called “fascist tactics” used by the Ergenekon prosecutor. There is no evidence to this connection. Gulen did the same thing and clearly and logically pointed out to the fact that banning a book is not anything helpful in this age of information. You don’t mention anything of his statement and try to connect everything with Gulen, based on some speculative evidence.

        – If you are so devoted to uncovering the truth on fascist means and tactics, why not a single word on tactics and methods used by some military elements in Turkey to manipulate the politics and the media? These elements do have the actual power through their control of armed resources and they go out and organize meetings in association with Kemalist groups, dictate the headlines, ban journalists from entering the army facilities. Why? Do you approve these tactics?

  3. Teresa (6 years ago)

    Decent article, I will be viewing back persistently to look around for posts.

  4. habace (6 years ago)

    Why do you think that Finkel’s sacking was to do with that article? I have been reading TZ for years (as well as other Turkish language newspapers. Finkel is pompous and has little insight into Turkish affairs. he started off giving his little orientalist lectures to Turks about how to be democratic and denying the existence of Ergenekon for example. In the company of much better journalists and writers from a wide range of backgrounds and views and much more knowledgeable about Turkey and the ME(including Mahcupyan, Balci, Matur, and Ergil), he changed his tune without ever admitting he had been wrong in the first place. He regularly made false claims and criticisms about his colleagues, which were quite sickening arrogant and unprofessional. His own writings were trivial and derivative. Does he really have much of a career before TZ? I can’t find any previous work of his on the net…… I think that he may have been sacked because he was unpleasant to work with. I noticed that the sub-eds were not removing some of his more egregious spelling mistakes lately….


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