Imagine a country where the judiciary and police don’t discriminate on the basis of race, language or faith. If this is a dream for a lot of people in Turkey, for us journalists, it’s regrettably all too true: If you really want to cover the news in this country, you are accorded the right to state oppression without discrimination, whatever your nation, faith or race.
You can be detained, threatened, arrested or even killed. As a citizen, you’re accorded special perks, such as the “hospitality” available between the four walls of your local prison. If you’re not a citizen, unfortunately, you’re only provided a glimpse of Turkey’s famous hospitality at the Foreigner’s Branch before you’re bundled onto a flight for an unexpected return to your own country.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is pursuing a war against all media organizations in an effort to prevent the truth from reaching the public. Some 33 journalists are still being held under arrest or as convicts in the country’s jails, while many more could join them for years at the conclusion of trials that are winding their way through the courts. Meanwhile, many journalists in the Kurdish provinces face serious threats to their lives. Cumhuriyet writers Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ceyda Karan have also found themselves sentenced to two years in prison amid chants of “Allahu Akbar” for displaying solidarity with France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The AKP government, which has reorganized the media landscape with several maneuvers and moved to create a pliant and strong media, is increasingly taking aim at the representatives of foreign media organizations. Since 2015, Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink, Brazilian photographer Gabriel Chaim, German journalist and photographer Robin Hinsch, American writer Elizabeth Chappell, Der Spiegel Turkey representative Hasnain Kazım, Metro Netherlands’ columnist Ebru Umar and Finnish writer Taina Niemelä have all been deported for a variety of reasons. At the same time, Germany’s ARD Cairo correspondent Volker Schwenck, Sputnik Turkey General Manager Tural Kerimov and Al-Jazeera journalist David Lepeska have been denied entry to Turkey. What they all share in common was stories that attempted to relate what’s happening in Turkey and the consequent anger of the government at their temerity.
Taking liberties with the international public and throwing diplomacy out the window, the AKP government has now succeeded in covering itself in international notoriety for its oppression of the press.
But however much the oppression increases, there will always be journalists with integrity who will continue to share the truth with the public. We will put an end to these attacks that have reached an international level with international solidarity.