President Tayyip Erdoğan replaced Minister of Justice and Turkish Statistical Institute head with a presidential decree, as further scrutiny brought upon media to “protect the national and moral values.”
Bekir Bozdağ, who had served in critical roles under ruling Justice and Development Party governments, was appointed as the new minister in place of Abdulhamit Gül, with a presidential decree published in Official Gazette on Jan. 28, 2022.
“I would like to express my gratitude to our President, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who entrusted me with the duty of Minister of Justice of the Republic of Turkey, for his appreciation. I would like to thank our brother Abdulhamit Gul, our Minister of Justice, for his services. May God help us,” Bozdağ posted on his Twitter account on Jan. 29.
In the decree, the expression “he asked for his pardon,” which was used when Berat Albayrak left the Ministry of Treasury and Finance in 2020, was also used for Gül, indicating that the reshuffle is a result of a resignation.
Bozdağ’s appointment came after Gül’s comment on a recent discussion over Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who stirred a debate after attending a dinner with British Ambassador amid snow storm crisis in Istanbul. After pro-government media published CCTV footage of İmamoğlu’s vehicle going to the dinner location, the opposition argued that the government unlawfully put surveillance on the metropolitan mayor. Gül criticized the footage being published, stating that “leaking personal information is a FETÖ method,” referring to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which has been indicted for orchestrating the thwarted July 15, 2016, coup attempt. His words were interpreted as a criticism against Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
According to the assessment of Gökçer Tahincioğlu from T24 news site, “It has been claimed that Gül’s messages referring to FETO created discomfort in the Presidency and MHP, and also caused criticism within the AKP. It was claimed that the process resulted in Gül’s resignation. As a result of the discomforts that have accumulated since the past, his post was changed.”
Bozdağ previously served as the Ministry of Justice during critical periods such as the 17-25 December investigations and the state of emergency after the July 15 coup attempt, and then served at various levels in the ruling party, including the Presidency of the Constitutional Commission and the Deputy Chairman of the AKP. With this change, Bozdağ will take the seat of the Ministry of Justice for the third time. And the reshuffle will be the seventh change after the transition to the Presidential Government System, which came into force in 2018.
The President of TÜİK was replaced
TÜİK’s president Erdal Dinçer was also replaced with the decree which appointed Deputy Chairman of the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) Erhan Çetinkaya for the post, days before critical inflation statistics to be announced.
Erdal Dinçer was facing public criticisms, which argued that the inflation rate announced by the state-run statistical agency does not reflect the actual inflation and that it might be manipulated by political force.
After the Turkish Lira has experienced historical loss in December following Central Bank’s interest rate cuts, opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu requested an appointment from TÜİK, arguing that the rising inflation and soaring prices are not reflected on official statistics. After his appointment was rejected, Dinçer was on target, after which he asserted that he declined the CHP leader’s request because he “did not want the institution a part of a political discussion.”
After the incident, Habertürk writer Fatih Altaylı and journalist İsmail Saymaz also reported that he “asked for his pardon from duty”.
With Dinçer’s handover, the presidency of the institution will be changed for the fifth time in the last three years.
“National and moral value” warning to the media
With another decree dated Jan. 28, signed by President Erdogan, the presidency announced another restriction to the media on the ground to “protect the national culture and prevent social corruption,” for the broadcasts “that do not comply with national and moral values.”
In the decree titled “Press and Broadcasting Activities,” it was stated that “steps will be taken immediately to eliminate the destructive effects of broadcasts determined to be “contrary to the basic values of society”.
“We need to protect our national culture against alienation and social corruption, and to protect the physical and mental development of our children and youth, who are the guarantee of our future, from being adversely affected as a result of exposure to harmful contents of all written, verbal and visual media and publications in some media, including social media. Steps must be taken decisively,” the circular read.
In this framework, “family and child-friendly productions will be encouraged”, “sanctions set by the Constitution, law and other relevant legislation will be taken in effect against activities aimed at eroding national and moral values and undermining the family and social structure” and “All necessary measures will be taken without delay.”
The decree did not further elaborate on the specific steps or measures against the media content. It also did not specify the contents that “would not comply with national and moral values.”