When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Turkey

A New Press Crackdown: Is Turkey Really A Model For Democracy?

Op-Ed: Ankara's is coming down hard against Kurdish opposition forces, including dozens of new arrests of journalists. It is a bad sign for the health of Turkey’s democracy, with the West watching and the Muslim world holding it up as a model in

Ozgur Gundem newspaper features its own troubles
Ozgur Gundem newspaper features its own troubles
Sedat Ergin

ISTANBUL – It was the most sweeping series of arrests directed at the media in Turkey in recent memory: last Saturday, 49 journalists and media employees were detained, with 36 ultimately placed under arrest.

Let me say this first: The arrests of my colleagues and the raids on their homes and newspaper offices is an extraordinary event that has no parallel in other democracies. This latest wave of arrests casts a long shadow over press freedom in Turkey.

Most of the journalists arrested work for Dicle News Agency and Ozgur Gundem newspaper, both press outlets whose views are aligned with the Kurdish political movement, and who closely follow all developments related to the (Kurdish terrorist group) PKK.

Aside from this group - the ‘Kurdish press' - there were also reporters for mainstream newspapers like Vatan and left-leaning Birgun.

(Update: according to press reports Thursday, a Turkish air strike along the heavily Kurdish border with Iraq has killed 35 people)

The wave of press arrests is the latest in a series of operations directed since the fall against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) – allegedly the urban wing of the PKK. It began with the detentions of officials from the Kurdish party BDP, followed by academics, then a large group of lawyers involved with the BDP and KCK trials. This latest move is directed against journalists.

The fact that these KCK operations are proceeding, as if by category, proves that a well-planned, integrated road map is being put in place, step by step.

Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin's recent hawkish statements appear to hint at what the next steps will be. Sahin declared that the BDP was an extension of the PKK; he said "we will show their true faces' and spoke of "terrorism's backyard." Describing the inhabitants of this backyard, he referred to artists, poets, universities, associations and NGOs, without naming names.

This latest wave of arrests will certainly hurt the ability of the Kurdish political movement to communicate with its constituencies.

FROM KCK TO VIOLATION OF PRIVACY

Freedom of the press includes the right to get news and spread news within a society. As lawyers for the defendants have pointed out, it is disturbing that in their interrogation the suspects were questioned about their ordinary journalistic activities.

The interrogation was not just limited to the KCK and journalism; one suspect was faced with records relating to his personal life and asked to give information about them. This is a frightening dimension.

It is up to the Interior and Justice Ministers to explain how an investigation that began as counter terrorism has turned into an investigation of someone's private life.

The real food for thought is this: the government in Ankara recently promised both the European Council and the European Union that it would carry out a series of legal changes to improve press freedom. This commitment led to optimistic expectations.

A technical study on this issue was due to begin with the European Council next month. Yet coming just as the government gained some credit in the West, these latest developments will damage its standing.

The problems related to freedom of expression and the number of journalists under arrest has become the most important thorn in Turkey's side in its relations with the West. This image problem is likely to worsen now.

In the end, 36 more members of the press have been added to the much-debated roster of how many journalists are under arrest. That the precise number of journalists detained by authorities in Turkey has become a matter of statistical debate is another sign of how problematic press freedom has become.

It is apparent that the ruling AKP party feels it has a free rein at home on these issues because of the West's need for Turkey in the wake of the Arab Spring and the crisis in Syria. But how can a country that throws 36 journalists behind bars overnight be a democratizing inspiration to the Arab Spring?

Read the original article in Turkish

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

The U.S.-Colombia 'War On Drugs' Has Failed: What Comes Next?

The Biden administration and Colombia's new government seem to agree on the need for a new approach to drugs policy. But will they be able to find support in their countries to forge a new strategy?

Interpol officers accompanying the sister of Colombian drug lord "Otoniel" before her extradition to the U.S.

Luis Carvajal Basto

BOGOTÁ - Some early directives by Colombia's new president Gustavo Petro suggest he sees the 2016 peace accords with the The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as failed or at best unfinished. Founded in 1964, FARC, the armed wing of the Communist Party, have been fighting the longest-running armed insurgency in the Western hemisphere.

Signed in 2016 under former president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the accords were meant to bring peace to the country, yet that peace has been patchy. This is not because another communist guerrilla force in the country, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has refused to join the peace arrangements, nor is it because of the last government's failure to implement the accord.

The problem clearly concerns drug trafficking, which has continued unperturbed since 2016. While drug use remains illegal, drug trafficking, which has long helped FARC fund its insurgency, will always be highly profitable and foment violence. So is it time to decriminalize drug use?

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ