How a newspaper headline rattled the republic

How a newspaper headline rattled the republic

The Turkish daily Hürriyet published a report on February 25 that is supposed to reflect the views of the military high command on some recent developments in the armed forces. The report with the headline “Military headquarters disturbed” has caused strong reactions from the President, the government, as well as the opposition. While the government blamed the newspaper for provoking a coup d’état, an MP from the main opposition party has stated that the headline is “not innocent.” This week the paper’s editor Sedat Ergin was replaced by Mr. Fikret Bila, the former editor-in-chief of the pro-government Milliyet.

The report contained responses of the army to the questions of Mrs Hande Fırat, the Ankara correspondent of the newspaper, summing up recent criticism by the opposition under seven subtitles. None of these subtitles, but except one, implied a criticism of the government or the President. Only under the first subtitle, it was revealed that the governmental decision to allow female officers to wear the Islamic headscarf was not consulted with the military command. The remaining six responses were dismissing the critics from the secular and nationalist opposition. 

It was more the headline “Karargah rahatsız” itself rather than the content that caused the uproar. In Turkish the term “rahatsız” can mean unwell or disturbed, but it also means restless, possibly indicating that the military could be planning another coup. More than a decade ago the daily Cumhuriyet ran a similar headline, stating that, the “young officers are restless” in an article by Mustafa Balbay, that was relying on military sources as well. Back then, Balbay and his sources were criticized for conspiring against the elected government.

The failed coup attempt last year has shown that the role the military seeks is still a political one. While the military’s influence over politics has been heavily curtailed, it seems the government is less than confident, that such an event could not happen again.

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