''Putin understood earlier that Gülenists are a terrorist organisation and banned this community in Russia''

Head of Anadolu official information agency about needed authoritarianism of Erdoğan, anti-Turkey hysteria in the Russian media, opposition and role of Tatars

''Putin understood earlier that Gülenists are a terrorist organisation and banned this community in Russia'' Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

An international media forum called Turkic World and Media Space where a correspondent of Realnoe Vremya took part was held in Turkestan (Kazakhstan). Editor-in-chief of Anadolu (Turkey) information agency Faruk Tokat was among noticeable guests. The journalist of our newspaper talked to the colleague from Ankara. In an interview to our newspaper, the head of the Turkish information agency shared his thoughts about the new leader of the Turkic world, the role of Tatars in this process, told about oppositionist media and forced authoritarianism in his country.

Leaders of Turkic world

Faruk efendi, the forum has finished in Turkestan. It seems that Kazakhstan is a candidate to become the leader of the Turkic world leaving Turkey behind. What do Turks think about this situation?

I don't feel that Kazakhstan is a candidate to become the leader. It seems to me that we all need mutual cooperation. There are many areas of such fruitful cooperation. I had a meeting with the director of the International Turkic Academy [Darhan Kıdırali] and felt we have a common business that we need to complete. In addition, no matter who initiates this process and who needs to chair it as paradoxical as it may sound. No matter who will manage this work, who will do the major job. Our most important goal is to strengthen relations between the countries, build new bridges. When initiators, rulers of this process appear, the project becomes more specific. As I understood, Kazakhstan is trying to become one of the initiators and observers of this process, not a leader.

What about Tatars? What do people in your country know about Tatarstan and Tatars?

The topic of Tatarstan is very important for us, Tatars are our brothers. A course of Tatar studies is taught at universities. Many scientists examine everything linked with the Tatars. There is a great number of Tatar students studying at Turkish universities within a state scholarship programme. Moreover, I would like to find a staff correspondent of Anadolu agency.

''No matter who will manage this work, who will do the major job. Our most important goal is to strengthen relations between the countries, build new bridges.'' Photo: Akimata Yuko

Do you already have anybody in mind?

Much time will pass until they graduate from educational establishments, you know. This is why we would like you to help us here. We love our brothers Tatars very much. Tatarstan, especially Kazan, was the centre of science, Islamic thought one hundred years ago. Many Muslim books were published precisely in Kazan, in a publishing house on Bulak Street. Such people as Musa Yarulla (Bigiev) and others made a huge contribution to the Islamic educational movement. I should not tell you about the Tatars who founded the Turkish statehood, Turkish science. Of course, such region as Tatarstan is very important for us. We want our relations with the republic to develop and become stronger. I hope, the wise administration of Tatarstan will continue making reciprocal steps towards us.

Oppositionist media and failed coup

The Russian media write than after the attempted coup in your country the pressure on the media increased. As director of one of the biggest media resources of Turkey, did you personally feel anything similar?

As we remember, there was an attempt to stage a coup in Turkey. As a result, it turned out that FETO (Editor's Note: Fethullah Terrorist Organisation as the Turkish authority calls supporters of the Islamic theologian) members were in all state establishments. If the coup had been successful, it would have killed hundreds of thousands of lives. It was necessary to announce the state of emergency in the country to clean state bodies from terrorist organisation members. Such a regime was applied in Turkey as well as in any other country in such a state. Then an active fight against terrorism began. Despite this, there is not any pressure on journalists in Turkey for their professional activity.

Wait, it was told that it affected workers of Cumhuriyet, Zaman newspapers, Cihan agency, Samanyolu TV channel and other media sources. They are more than one hundred of media who dared to say something bad about Erdoğan and Justice and Development Party.

Undoubtedly, journalists of some newspapers were arrested and brought to court. But they were punished for their membership in the terrorist organisation, not for their work as journalist. The proof is that some newspapers of Turkey still can criticise Erdoğan. Nobody is arrested and jailed for criticising in Turkey.

''Undoubtedly, journalists of some newspapers were arrested and brought to court. But they were punished for their membership in the terrorist organisation, not for their work as journalist.'' Photo: gdb.rferl.org

Did any oppositionist media remain in Turkey in general?

Of course, they exist – TV, newspapers. For instance, Halk TV freely transmits. They criticise Erdoğan's regime 24/7. There is a newspaper of the pro-Kurdish parliamentary party (Editor's Note: Peoples' Democratic Party). A half of their journalists was arrested because they had participated in armed campaigns. But those who did not participate there continue working including in the Parliament of Turkey.

Vertical of power in the media

After the constitutional referendum, our media and social networks started to speak more that the vertical of power strengthened in Turkey. Moreover, Erdoğan is more often compared with Putin. Does your country compare the two presidents speaking about centralisation of power?

They are both very strong leaders. As a journalist, I think that Putin pursues more authoritarian policy. In turn, I would like to ask you whether Russia has newspapers that criticise your president, the regime.

Yes, radio Echo of Moscow, Fontanka site, Novaya Gazeta, Rain TV channel and others are the most popular, not to mention a group of top bloggers.

When the country feels a threat to national security, it becomes more authoritarian – it is fine. This is why some authoritarian measures are taken in the country in such conditions. We should understand it. But all actions need to be within democracy.

''Members of this network got an opportunity to open their schools in all the parts of the world in the past. But Putin and then Erdoğan stopped their activity in their countries.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

Did mass arrests of opponents start within democracy? Is it a kind of democratic need?

I would also like to note that Putin understood earlier that FETO is a terrorist organisation and banned this community in Russia. Members of this network got an opportunity to open their schools in all the parts of the world in the past. But Putin and then Erdoğan stopped their activity in their countries.

''Everything was too exaggerated in Russia''

The attitude in the Russian media towards Ankara worsened after the incident when the Russian jet was downed. Was there anything similar towards Moscow and Russians when the relations became colder?

No. Everything was too exaggerated in Russia after this case. But there was not sudden negative news from the Turkish media about Russia. As you can see, the ties between the countries are improving, everything is normalising, trends are positive, which can't help but gladden.

The last question. Have you ever been to Russia, Tatarstan? Are you going to visit our country and the republic in the short run?

I have been only in Moscow. I have never been in Kazan, though I am going to visit Kazan and other cities of your region. I just need to choose a date. In addition, the issue on the search of a correspondent from your republic remains topical. As I have got such great friends as you in Kazan, I think I will find an opportunity to visit Tatarstan in the short run.

Welcome!

Editorial of Realnoe Vremya thanks staff reporter of Anadolu Ajansı in Astana Aliya Raimbekova for help in organising the interview.

By Timur Rakhmatullin