By Metin Yıkar*
It has been over three years since one of the most brilliant names of the Turkish media industry Hidayet Karaca was confined within four walls. While I am writing these lines, Mr. Karaca has been in jail for 2 years, 11 months and 28 days. It has been 1109 days since we, 800 staff of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, sent him to İstanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse by chanting “Good Bye Hidayet Karaca” or “Hidayet Karaca is entrusted to God” in fact with great silence.
On the anniversary of the December 17-25, 2013 large-scale corruption operation in which Reza Zarrab took a part as the leading actor, we came to know that on December 14, 2014, there was a detention warrant for Hidayet Karaca along with the 10 staff, as if getting revenge. Our friends were taken from their homes one by one. Karaca left his family at home and waited for police officers to arrive in his office. On the night of December 13th, he wrote the following messages in his Twitter account; “Come on in, I’m waiting here on my duty in our television building.” Despite the fact that they went his house and did not come to work. By saying that his friends, taken into custody, should not feel alone, he went to the court by his car. He did not come back, couldn’t come.
I worked side-by-side with him for 15 years. Past fifteen years with full of hard work, night after day. When he came to the office in 1999, the country, the media sector, and our TV couldn’t get over the February 28 trauma (Post-modern coup process in Turkey, 1997). Moreover, economic problems were causing our company to be weighted down.
Hidayet Karaca, adding successful managerial skills to his good journalism, he transformed the broadcasting agency with a single channel into an international media group that broadcast in 4 languages with 13 channels, 4 radio stations, a website with a million visitors. He made media group one of the most respected institutions in the country. If one day a success story will be written in the media, one of the masterpieces would be the Samanyolu under the leadership of Hidayet Karaca.
All senior politicians from almost every part of the country participated in the programs he prepared in person for many years. With his lovable attitude, his guests felt so close to him like his friends. The institution under his leadership was in an effort to include all the colors and all the voices of the country. Now, most of the intellectuals such as; Şahin Alpay, Eser Karakaş, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Yavuz Baydar, Derya Sazak, Maya Arakon, Sedat Laçiner, Mehmet Aydın; who expressed their thoughts freely for many years without any intervention; are in jail or in exile because of their thoughts.
From the unforgettable sahur programs (meal before dawn during month of Ramazan) to the series where national and spiritual values were emphasized, the Samanyolu, which was embraced by Anatolia, was an open channel to the world. It became a democratic platform in the post-2013 period, especially when the pressures on the media increased. The most watched children’s channel of Turkey, Yumurcak Tv, which broadcast Caillou known very closely by all of the Turkish children and even their parents, was one of the successful projects of Mr. Karaca.
Before Samanyolu he worked in Zaman daily as the bureau chief of İzmir and Ankara provinces. He was one of the important names who was beloved, respected and friendly in the world of politics, business and media. Do not mind that some of them turn their backs, from Bülent Arınç to Binali Yıldırım, from Aydın Doğan’s son in law Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ to Kanal 7 General Manager Mustafa Çelik, many names used to come to Mr. Karaca’s home, have breakfasts and discuss the issues of the country. Due to his reputation and strong relations in the world of television, Hidayet Karaca was elected as the president of Television Broadcasters Association and Television Audience Measurement (TİAK), a very critical institution that measures ratings. The politicians, who were running behind him and calling him as brother, and the mayors, who were visiting him with their families 5-6 times in a year. I do not know what they are thinking now. Don’t these people, who received kindness and were welcomed always with a smiling face by him have on their conscience at all? We’ll know when the time comes.
Hidayet Karaca is an Anatolian valiant from Çankırı province. He loves the country, he is always engaged with it. When he got opportunity he visited his parents. He lived in a modest and peaceful family environment with his parents, his spouse, his two sons and his sisters’ families. Almost every Sunday morning, they gathered at his father’s house, and his mother used to make menemen (Turkish omelette) for him which is his favorite. In a prison visit, he had a long conversation with his mother about menemen on the phone behind the glass. His eldest son Sıtkı was 18 when his father left. He’s now 21. On the weekends, his young son Emin, used to come to the TV building sometimes to do homework. You should have seen while his father spending time with him.
Other than his cooperative apartment that he purchased with a couple of his friends, Karaca had no property. He bought a wrecked car to make it cheap, he did his daily work with that car. He had a very modest life for a man who managed massive budgets and reaching millions of people.
Rosaries and calligraphy were his biggest passion. He enriched his collection as much as he could, but he liked to share it as well. I also have 4 beautiful rosaries from him.
He was preparing the Samanyolu with a new and huge investment. He rolled his sleeves up for the construction of the most modern television building in Europe. The rough construction of the building was already over. He was doing his job, trying to carry the institution he worked with his friends to the world league. More as you know. He was taken into custody on December 14, 2014 for some reasons, which are not much cop, such as series, scene or lines etc. Then they did not release him. Six months later, however, there was an eviction decision that led to his freedom by the court. But unfortunately, the judges of the two courts, who decided to evacuate, were first dismissed from their posts and then imprisoned after being arrested. İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court judge Mustafa Başer and 29th Criminal Court judge Metin Özçelik, they’re still in prison. In addition, Metin Özçelik’s wife, who is a medical doctor, was fired from İstanbul’s Vakıf Gureba Hospital and also his 4-year-old child was expelled from the nursery.
What was all this revenge and grudge for? Did Karaca rob the state, take a gun and kill a police or soldier? The justification for being sentenced to 31 years imprisonment is worth to be recorded in the world humor history. In the history of the world, he was the first person who was imprisoned by a line on a television series. The police of the state had an operation on a group of al-Qaeda sympathizers called Tahşiye, the governor proudly announced it at his press conference and the instruction came from the Interior Ministry and the General Directorate of Security for the operation. As if these were not happened, as if the instruction of the operation was given on one of the scenes of a series, Hidayet Karaca was imprisoned with such a comedy. According to this new judicial order zeroing the justice, Hidayet Karaca is a terrorist.
It was the 3rd day when I went to prison to visit him for the first time. He was kept under custody throughout 14 days by breaking all the rules of law. A total of 17 days he was away from his freedom. Every day we were accustomed to seeing him shaved and well-groomed. Karaca’s beard had grown when I saw him in custody.
I went to visit him every week. Every week for 1 year with his mother, father and family. Three times a month on the phone behind the glass, and once around the table. We ate the biscuits he brought, we drank fruit juices that he bought from prison canteen. 80-year-old father and 75-year-old mother moved to Silivri district (Silivri Prison located) despite its sharp winter cold and hot summer days. Silivri is a place, which turned into a concentration camp for the journalists and intellectuals who bravely express their thoughts and raise their voices against the wrongs of power.
He didn’t stop in prison either. He wrote the letters he received, his experiences and thoughts in a book titled ‘A Soap Opera.’
Our first meeting in Silivri, ‘Metin, they will keep us here for 6 months’ he said. Maybe he felt like that. He believed that such cruelty and injustice would not last long. He found unnecessary to defend himself in the court. He was so sure of his innocence. To the judge he said “If people are being imprisoned with a serial then it’s a fictitious case. The important thing is the settlement of democracy in the country. This decision was an expected decision. We did not anticipate that we would be released anyway. Keep your prayers with us. May Almighty conduce to prosperity. Today we would be recorded in the history.” Unfortunately; 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years is about to be over. How many seasons, how many feasts have passed.
Along with his freedom Karaca lost his father as well. He could not even go to the funeral. They did not allow him. His father, Kadir Karaca’s heart couldn’t stand of his beloved son to be exposed to this persecution. (Kronos.news)
*Metin Yıkar was the editor-in-chief of private national news channel Samanyolu Haber, which was closed down by Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just days after a controversial military coup on July 15, 2016.