Shining a Light: Turkey

by Pandora Longstreth

Earlier this month, on the 11th January 2015, it is said that more than a million people came together across France in marches and rallies condemning the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices, the kosher supermarket and the police officers earlier that week. World leaders and representatives from across the globe attended the march in Paris together, holding hands and linking arms in solidarity and support for freedom of expression. Among the group was the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu.

This week, we are shining the light on Turkey.

Turkey, especially recently, has been in the media focus for freedom of expression abuses. During the Gezi Park Protests, Erdoğan was criticised for blocking social media websites, such as twitter, as well as trying people who tweeted about police brutality during the protests.  Erdoğan has also been criticised, more recently, of arresting journalists as well as banning websites and news outlets from publishing the Charlie Hebdo cover.

Turkey is a country full of talent and creativity. It is a country that is growing economically at an exponential rate when most countries are in an economic downfall; a country booming in almost every aspect possible. Turkey has an incredible and impressive history, visible on every corner from the castle fortress Rumelihisarı to the ruins of Olympos. Istanbul is a city close to my heart and like a second home. When hearing about Turkey only in the news for freedom of expression abuses, all of these things are undermined and even forgotten.

World leaders attend Unity March in Paris

Charlie Hebdo

Since the attacks in Paris, Turkey has been seen to have undermined its so-called support of freedom of expression. Turkey has called for the ban on some news outlets and websites that feature the Charlie Hebdo cover. Cumhuriyet, a secular Turkish newspaper, announced that on Wednesday 14th January, they would be publishing a small selection of cartoons in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. On the Wednesday of the publication, trucks carrying this special issue were extensively stopped and searched. Only to be released after it was established that the Charlie Hebdo cover was not included – a cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad in tears with a sign stating ‘Je Suis Charlie’.

“The opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) harshly criticised the police raid on Cumhuriyet trucks. Addressing Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in a parliamentary motion, MP Umut Oran said: “Did you give the order for the raid while you were marching for press freedom in Paris? Is [this raid] not against freedom of expression?”” – Constanze Letsch, the Guardian.

December Detentions

In December 2014, a host of journalists of opposition media were arrested in Turkey.  Soon after announcing there would be new action targeting supporters of Fettulah Gülen, Erdoğan took action against journalists and newspapers accused as being involved in an opposition network. 

“During one raid a crowd of supporters assembled at the offices of the Zaman daily and chanted: “The free press cannot be silenced.” The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı, gave a defiant speech, widely publicised in Turkish media, in which he challenged police to arrest him. He was detained, as was the head of the Samanyolu Media Group, Hidayet Karaca.” – Constanze Letsch, the Guardian.

Free Press in Turkey

According to the Guardian, in Turkey, up to almost 70 journalists are in the process of being prosecuted after referring to corruption allegations against the associates of Turkey’s president, Erdoğan.

“According to the Turkish Journalists Union, 845 journalists lost their jobs during last year’s Gezi Park protests, and in October a report published by the opposition CHP (Republican People’s party) stated that 1,863 journalists had been fired since the AKP (Justice and Development party) came to power in 2002. Now the turn has come to the Gülenist media.” – Robert Ellis, the Guardian.

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