Turkey: The Right To Free Speech Is Being Lost, ‘There Is A New Climate Of Fear In Istanbul’
By Mehdi Hasan, “Which country in the world currently imprisons more journalists than any other? The People’s Republic of China? Nope. Iran? Wrong again. The rather depressing answer is the Republic of Turkey, where nearly 100 journalists are behind bars, according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Yes, that’s right: modern, secular, western-oriented Turkey, with its democratically elected government, has locked away more members of the press than China and Iran combined.
But this isn’t just about the press – students, academics, artists and opposition MPs have all recently been targeted for daring to speak out against the government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
There is a new climate of fear in Istanbul. When I visited the city last week to host a discussion show for al-Jazeera English, I found journalists speaking in hushed tones about the clampdown on free speech. Within 24 hours of our arrival, one of my al-Jazeera colleagues was detained by police officers, who went through his bag and rifled through one of my scripts. They loudly objected to a line referring to the country’s ‘increasingly authoritarian government’. Who says that Turks don’t do irony?
The stock response from members of the AKP government is to blame the imprisonment and intimidation on Turkey’s supposedly ‘independent’ judiciary. But this will not do. For a start, ministers haven’t been afraid of interfering in high-profile prosecutions. In a speech at – of all places – the Council of Europe in April 2011, a defiant Erdogan, commenting on the controversial detention of the investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, compared Sik’s then unpublished book to a bomb: ‘It is a crime to use a bomb, but it is also a crime to use materials from which a bomb is made.’
Then there is the behind-the-scenes pressure that is exerted by the government on media organisations. ‘People are afraid of criticising Erdogan openly,’ says Mehmet Karli, a lecturer at Galatasaray University in Istanbul and a campaigner for Kurdish rights. ‘They might not be arrested, but they will lose their jobs.’” Read more.
Tip of the hat to Kurt J. for the link above …
Flashback: Obama’s Favorite Foreign Leader – “… the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not quite the equivalent of Hamas or Hezbollah, but as Michael Rubin noted last week, it has became a major sponsor and enabler of terrorism… its leader has become one of the few foreign leaders with whom Barack Obama has a strong relationship. Obama has, according to the Post, spent more time speaking on the phone with Erdogan than any other ally. Indeed, in a cover story interview with Time Magazine, Obama told a fawning Fareed Zakaria that Erdoğan was someone with whom he had become friends and forged ‘bonds of trust.’ It speaks volumes about the deplorable state of American foreign policy that Erdogan is someone with whom Obama is most comfortable.” Read more.
Flashback: Turkey: Erdogan’s Reforms Mean Less Schooling, More Qur’an – “The goals of an education reform bill introduced by the Islamic party of Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been characterised by opposition parties as aiming to halve the length of compulsory schooling to promote more Koranic schools and veil wearing… Following its third electoral victory in succession, with nearly 50% of votes cast, Erdogan’s single-party pro-Islamic government has already abolished the minimum age requirement for attendance at such schools and this reform would encourage children to give up attending their secular secondary schools in favour of religious institutions…” Read more.