Free Press

Turkey's Crackdown on Free Press Makes it Barely a Democracy Anymore

NATO ally aspires to join EU, but its government just violently seized the nation's largest newspaper.

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Turkey, a NATO ally with aspirations of

#FreeMediaCannotBeSilenced
Today's Zaman

joining the European Union (EU), is increasingly resembling a dictatorship. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest slouch toward authoritarianism was last week's seizing of the nation's best-selling newspaper, Zaman

Zaman was an independent media source and frequently critical of Erdogan's regime. But after the government takeover of its offices by gunpoint, and the firing of its senior editorial staff, the paper is now loaded with pro-Erdogan stories. Sevgi Akarcesme, the former editor-in-chief of the paper, wrote on Twitter, "In less than 48 hours, the new admin turned seized Zaman into a propaganda piece of the regime in Turkey." 

Almost immediately, access to the paper's website was blocked, reporters' email were accounts locked, and the deletion of 30 years worth of digital archives began by the new government-installed editorial leadership. 

The Guardian wrote yesterday that "Turkey is a country at the mercy of one man's bad temper" and Erdogan's "personality is not suited to any kind of adversity." Indeed, such little tolerance for dissent exists in present-day Turkey that almost 2,000 people have been prosecuted for "insulting the President" in the past year and a half. The New York Times reports that "among the offenders are journalists, authors, politicians, a famous soccer star, even schoolchildren."

Mapping Media Freedom reports that of the 15 journalists killed around the world since July 2014, 7 have died in Turkey. In 2012, Reports Without Borders called Turkey "the world's biggest prison for journalists" and that same year, the Committee to Protect Journalists released an exhaustive report titled, "Turkey's Press Freedom Crisis."

The International Press Institute recently released a press release which read in part:

IPI condemned Turkish authorities' presentation of an indictment seeking to imprison two well-known journalists for life over reports claiming that Turkey's intelligence agency secretly armed Islamist rebel groups in Syria. The journalists, Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül, are currently being held in pre-trial detention at Silivri Prison, west of Istanbul. Delegates from a coalition of leading international free expression and press freedom groups travelled to Silivri on Jan. 27 to demonstrate support for Dündar and Gül and to protest officials' refusal to grant them – and Turkish journalists in general – permission to visit the pair.

While Turkish journalists have thus far borne the brunt of a widespread and multifaceted crackdown on free expression, foreign journalists have also been targeted. Last September, Turkey deported a Dutch journalist, Fréderike Geerdink, whom prosecutors had accused of spreading terrorist propaganda. In August, authorities detained three foreign VICE News reporters on similar terrorism-related offences, two of whom, both British nationals, were released shortly thereafter. The third, Iraqi citizen Mohammed Rasool, was held until last month.

Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, Joel Simon says that Turkey's

Turkey Tear Gas Zaman
Twitter/@YanniKouts

transformation into a "neo-authoritarian state" has come about in part because Erdogan feels no pressure from the international community's toothless condemnations of his assault on the free press:

The escalating media repression in Turkey also shows the "name and shame" strategies that are the mainstay of human rights advocacy are no longer effective. This approach requires systematic documentation of the abuses being committed, then relentless and sustained pressure on the local government to address them. It's a strategy that works well when officials care about what the rest of the world thinks. In Turkey, that no longer appears to be the case. 

The endless press conferences, international delegations, solidarity visits to newsrooms, and meetings with Turkish government officials may have tempered some of the worst abuses, but they have failed to shift the balance. 

The EU is set to meet with Turkish leaders today, but since the Brussels-based bureaucracy desperately needs Turkey's support in stemming the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe, and also relies on the country to battle ISIS-linked extremists, it's unlikely the EU will apply any significant pressure over its ongoing human rights abuses. 

Watch footage below of police using tear gas and water cannons to chase away demonstrators amassed outside Zaman's offices, who reportedly chanted "free press cannot be silenced" before being attacked by authorities:

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  1. Turkey’s feeling needed and therefore empowered to do whatever they want.

    1. ^This. Dammit.

  2. Speaking of Free Press, Times endorses Sanders, Kasich for their party’s respective nominee.

    1. Now that Kasich has the Schwarzenegger endorsement, he just needs the Van Daam to tie the whole thing up.

  3. Actually, this makes Turkey more of a Democracy than ever and, unfortunately, less of a Republic.

    1. Why can’t people get straight that those are synonyms? They keep imagining a distinction that’s not there. Like the people who don’t know “detergent” means “cleaner” & therefore is not exclusive of soap, or don’t know that a computer of any size can have a “mainframe”.

    2. They’re just Greek-derived & Latin-derived ways to say the same thing. How about a German one, like maybe Volkreich? Or go Danish with folkting?

      1. Wat? A republic is a representative form of government, a democracy is straight popular vote. They have real meaning. Ours is a democratic republic, meaning both.

  4. one more example of how Islam is incompatible with democracy. Turkey needs to be kicked out of NATO as an ISIS supporting terrorist state

      1. My hands are much bigger than yours

    1. I agree, although I would kick them out regardless of religion. Dictatorships should not be allowed in NATO.

      1. Go try and deny the holocaust in Germany. See what that gets you. If freedom of speech is the hallmark of democracy…there are no democracies in Europe.

        (and that isn’t a defense of Turkey)

    2. As if it wasn’t clear from all the Islamist governments in South America.

  5. Time to liberate Constantinople from the Turkish heathens

    1. Given that pretty much everyone in Istanbul is a Turk now, who exactly would we be liberating?

      1. Stan? Or maybe Stan Long.

  6. Zaman was an independent media source and frequently critical of Erdogan’s regime. But after the government takeover of its offices by gunpoint, and the firing of its senior editorial staff, the paper is now loaded with pro-Erdogan stories. Sevgi Akarcesme, the former editor-in-chief of the paper, wrote on Twitter, “In less than 48 hours, the new admin turned seized Zaman into a propaganda piece of the regime in Turkey.”

    Perhaps the New York Times will see this as the benevolent hand of government giving much-needed support to the beleaguered newspaper industry.

    1. Given that the NY Times and Obama’s White House seem to have revolving doors open 24/7 for each other, they probably would see it as an improvement if the Obama gov’t seized control of the NY Times. It would make it easier to consolidate power and would avoid those pesky exit interviews.

  7. I thought Turkey’s military would’ve shut down Erdogan by now. They’ve moved in on previous presidents over seemingly lesser religious-creep and presidential over-steps.

    1. A lot of the top leaders of the military have been arrested or fired.

    2. Ataturk set up the Turkish military as a counter force to the Islamists. This was effective, as you point out, until Erdogan purged the military officer ranks and replaced the ousted officers with his own men. As soon as the purges started succeeding some years back, it was obvious that the takeover by the Islamists was inevitable.

      1. Hmmm, maybe relying on the military to be a benevolent balancing force was a bad idea.

        1. Got a better one? Congress? A court picked by the President?

          The People is the only one that ultimately works – and the majority seem to approve of Erdogan.

        2. The military was what Ataturk had at the time to deal with the busted up Ottoman Empire right after WWI.

          1. Yes – and military officers at the time were better educated and more secular than the average Turk.

    3. They used to, yes.

      Then, in the 1990s, they were pressured by the Bill Clinton’s State Department to let “democracy” flourish (complete with cheerleading from the shitheads at the New York Times). While at the same time, the French, in giving excuses why they were blocking Turkey’s EU bid, pointed at the history military stepping in to protect Turkish secularism, as if that was their actual objection.

      So the military backed off a bit and, in the name of democracy and good relations with the West and a European future for Turkey, let Erdogan run and take office, when they’d previously been blocking him.

      And then Erdogan, with the powers of his office, a popular majority, and the military officers gun-shy under Western pressure, consolidated control.

      And now it’s too late for a secular Turkey, because of Clintonian idiocy and French lies.

  8. This is much better than governments that demand the destruction of hard drives. Or the ones that criminalize whistleblowing. Or that spy on members of the press. Or on members of their own Congress.

    1. Meant worse. Oh, and sarc.

      1. Yes, it is worse. Have some perspective.

  9. Indeed, such little tolerance for dissent exists in present-day Turkey that almost 2,000 people have been prosecuted for “insulting the President” in the past year and a half.

    Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for this turkey.

    1. Don’t vote for the turkey, if you can’t handle the beak.

  10. Why did Constantinople get the works?

    1. That’s nobody’s business but [gets arrested]

    2. Because snorting is not as efficient?

  11. Trump and Hillary are taking notes.

  12. So when Russia and Turkey get into a shooting war over Syria, we are going to support……Turkey?

    I am not saying we should necessarily support anyone. But Turkey is a member of NATO. So all those who decry Putin, are probably saying nothing about Turkey. Because Islamophobia is bad, or something.

    1. Also known as the Shortest Midget Quandary.

    2. If we had a competent President, he would have announced this morning that the US is seeking the immediate removal of Turkey from NATO.

    3. But Turkey is a member of NATO.

      And were when they denied us a northern front in Iraq.

      Fuck ’em. They made the precedent that wars in the Mideast aren’t NATO business.

    4. Turkey’s societal degeneracy grows worse each year, and at this point, they can’t be seriously considered a civilized country. Their expulsion from NATO should be a primary objective for any rational American government.

    5. “Because Islamophobia is bad, or something.”

      Because ALLY. That trumps EVERYTHING ELSE in how Americans view outside politics. It’s why we hear glowing appraisals of the fucking Saudis from our president. The Saudis who are JUST as bad as ISIS.

      1. You won’t get any argument from me. Frankly, if we are going to have allies based on current threats and what is truly in our best interests, then it seems to me we should have a grand alliance of the US, India, Israel and Russia and tell the Islamists do what you want in your own countries. But keep fucking with any of us and we will seriously fuck with you. And then, let NATO collapse and let the rest of the NATO countries defend themselves. During the Cold War, at least the UK and West Germany were willing to defend western Europe. Now, we are the only ones spending the money. And if Germany and the UK are so hell bent on bringing in thousands of Muslims. let them. If they turn out to be peaceful and integrate into their societies, great. If however, it turns out these countries are committing suicide, nothing we can do about it.

        I am not arguing here for that arrangement, mind you. I am merely saying that it makes as much sense in today’s environment as does our current arrangement.

    6. Hopefully nobody. The Russians would get the shit kicked out of them if they tried to fight the Turks with just their Southern Military District. So they would have to pull in forces from all other districts, leaving themselves weaker and less of a threat everywhere else. Even then, I don’t think the Russians could take Turkey.

      1. When Russia was stepping up its support of Assad, I was for supporting Russia, but only if we could leverage that support in getting concessions from Assad. But the very idea, as farfetched as it may be at the moment, that we could somehow end up supporting Erdogan and his regime against Russia over this just boggles my mind. Other than the civilian cost of lives which is horrible in Syria, I don’t give a flying fuck if that bastard Assad and those fucks in ISIS spend the next 10 years fighting each other. But since Obama (and assholes like McCain) have been so keen to support these imaginary “non-ISIS” rebels, I figure I need to remind people about the other side.

  13. Trump: “This Erdogan, guy…I LIKE him. He’s a class act. Absolutely incredible. The best. Just…THE BEST.”

  14. Democracy means voting, right?

    Seems to me that a free press makes for a better democracy, but saying the lack of one means you aren’t a democracy would mean that nearly every democratic government on the planet really isn’t.

    1. saying the lack of one means you aren’t a democracy would mean that nearly every democratic government on the planet really isn’t

      … and?

      1. So why pick on Turkey?

        1. It’s a matter of degree, I would say. Turkey (and Hong Kong FWIW) are joining the illustrious ranks of Zimbabwe and Venezuela. To cry hypocrisy all the time is to say that the worst offenders are excused because no one is perfect.

    2. That was my point. Majority rule has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with stupid policy.

  15. NATO ally aspires to join EU, but its government just violently seized the nation’s largest newspaper.

    Sounds like this should improve Turkey’s chances of being accepted into the EU.

    1. French, British, Spanish, and German authorities, in particular, are probably in silent admiration of Turkey’s brazen authoritarianism.

      1. French, British, Spanish, and German authorities, in particular, are probably in silent admiration of Turkey’s brazen authoritarianism stern and decisive resolve.

        1. I’d have gone with “will to power”.

      2. Okay, we’ll let you in. Just tell us how we can shut up our media…

  16. I thought what happened to Turkey last year – Erdogan’s clowns losing election, then Erdogan’s clowns basically sabotaging emergent government with Kurd flame-fanning and then new election – was biggest development with long-term consequences.

    Turkey reached a fork in the road then, and it tried going toward emergent secular pluralism only to stumble like a drunk further into Islamostupidity like all the rest.

    1. Which is when the military was supposed to jump in and order the kids out of the pool. Since Erdogan had already neutered them, nothing happened.

  17. NATO ally aspires to join EU, but its government just violently seized the nation’s largest newspaper

    The Eurotard elites probably love that, they just won’t come out in public and say it yet. The goal of The EU seems to be rule by uneleceted bureaucrats.

    1. Perhaps somewhat more accurately, the goal of the EU is rule by European majority, rather than national majority. It is the same disease that infects the United States via-a-vis the Federal vs State vs local governments. The goal is the sublimation of British or French or Spanish or Greek interests in favor of cross-sectional international interests. The end result is probably quite similar, with an unelected bureaucracy being the most direct interface between the government and the people, and a more uniform therapeutic social-welfare state being the incontestable baseline.

      1. I think it’s a good bit more insidious than the US system, having apparently been expressly designed to minimize the voice of the people. When Farage and others talk about the unelected commission, I’m not sure that people understand the mechanism being described; and, to be honest, it is not an easy thing to divine exactly how power flows through that system. The simplest way I’ve understood it, and feel free to correct me, is basically to say, in comparison with the US, that there would be a single body (equating to the European Commission) endowed with the ability to propose legislation, and that this body would be appointed by the states’ governors (equating to the European Council). The parliament, which is indeed popularly elected, is thus made powerless to do anything more than voice its approval or disapproval on the measures handed down.

        Not only is this a curiously circuitous conduit for conveying the will of the people (blindly taking at face value that this would be a goal), but it almost smacks of a fear even that naturally-occurring bureaucracy itself might prove too agile for the designer’s liking; that is, it appears to have been designed exactly as a societal ratchet, since we know that a) a bureaucracy only rarely and slowly reverses itself, and that b) if at first a measure fails, you need only put it forward again enough times, before it will eventually succeed.

  18. He must’ve found out what “pafalahaka” means.

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