In Turkey, Theocracy – 1, Free Press – 0
Turkey takes another step towards fundamentalist theocracy as freedom of the press recedes even further.
Hurriyet Daily News reports:
Two journalists were sentenced to two years in prison on April 28 for republishing in their columns a cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring an image of the Prophet Muhammad.
Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced daily Cumhuriyet journalists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya to two years on charges of “openly encouraging hate and enmity among people via the press” for reprinting the caricature of the Islamic prophet after the Jan. 7, 2015, attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people.
However, the court ruled for the acquittal of the journalists on charges of “insulting people’s religious values” on the grounds that the criminal factors had not been constituted.
Some 1,280 people had filed a criminal complaint against Karan and Çetinkaya for republishing in their columns the cover of Charlie Hebdo, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his daughters Esra Albayrak and Sümeyye Erdoğan, his son Bilal Erdoğan, his son-in-law Energy Minister Berat Albayrak and his adviser Mustafa Varank.
So the climate for journalism in Turkey is now such that a despotic thin-skinned president and members of his parasitic family feel that it is appropriate to drag journalists before the court and have them convicted simply for carrying out objective reporting.
Closing down independent newspapers and converting them into pro-government propaganda outlets is apparently no longer enough. Individual journalists must also be persecuted and jailed for offending the sensibilities of the Turkish president, his close family members and a thousand or so other assorted religious fundamentalists who believe that their right to sail through life unoffended trumps the right of journalists to report the news.
The Telegraph outlines the wider negative trend:
But the sentencing comes amid a mushrooming crackdown on Turkish and international news media within the country. According to PEN International, some 28 writers and journalists were either detained or imprisoned in Turkey at the end of 2015 while more than 100 remained on trial, most for national security offenses.
Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, and the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, are currently on trial on trial behind closed doors on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.
International trial monitors and press freedom groups have condemned those proceedings, describing the case as an instance in which “journalism is on trial”.
And this is a country which entertains hopes of joining the European Union.
This is the regime which Germany is scrambling to appease.
The sentencing of these journalists is unacceptable. But it is also exactly what many in Britain and the West tacitly condone when they leap to their feet in defence of the right of “marginalised” people to avoid having their religious faith and political opinions subjected to the same scrutiny, discussion and criticism as those from the “privileged” majority.
This is the legacy of every single person who supports the concept of “hate speech”, or whose condescending, neo-colonialist views of Muslims and other minorities hold that they are inherently less intelligent, less capable of engaging in debate and more prone to violence than the white majority, who should indulge them in their fragility or violent excesses like understanding parent figures.
As soon as one accepts the racist notion that some people are inherently less capable than others of having their beliefs and opinions challenged or even mocked, one opens the door to civil or criminal penalties for doing so.
When the Metropolitan Police arrest a man in London for tweeting something deemed by completely unconnected third parties to be “Islamophobic”, it becomes that much easier for authoritarian regimes in parts of the world with weaker democratic traditions to claim that they are only following “best practice”, that their despotic excesses are just a nothing but a difference of degree. And at the very least, this makes it much harder for Britain to remonstrate with Turkey. How can we lecture Turkey that arresting journalists is abhorrent when we do the same thing ourselves?
It is time for Britain and the West to reoccupy the depressingly deserted moral high ground. Yes, criticise Turkey for their government’s chilling suppression of free speech and a free press, and yes, proclaim that you are still Charlie (but only if you really are).
But as we do so, we should not allow the beam in beleaguered Turkey’s eye to distract us from the steadily-growing speck in our own.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty