Exceeding even its own unenviable standards, Turkey experienced one of its worst days for press freedom today. As journalists continued darkening the door of courthouses around the country for the myriad of cases that have been opened against them, police were swooping to raid TV and radio stations that had been marked for closure last week. The government, which is enforcing its closure decisions with coercion, showcased with its sealing of broadcast rooms that it is no longer even deigning to tolerate the slightest alternative voice or opposition. Taking the wind provided by the 15 July coup in its sails, it is now charting a direct court to its promised land of authoritarianism.
In the morning hours, journalist Celal Başlangıç, who participated in a solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem as an editor-in-chief on duty, appeared before the 14th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes, making him the sixth journalist to be tried for standing with the newspaper.
Drunk with the power provided by the state of emergency, the government sent in the police to halt the broadcasting activities of imc TV, Hayatın Sesi TV and Özgür Radyo. As the state’s police sealed the broadcast rooms, others seized the media outlets’ equipment. In an attack on Özgür Radyo, 20 employees were struck by police, with the station’s Ali Sönmez Kayar suffering head trauma after being beaten by police.
Prisons are full of journalists, and dozens of their colleagues wait in the corridors of courthouses every day in the expectation of prison for themselves. But that has proved insufficient; now, they’re trying to close radio and TV stations, take stations off satellite and bring the shutters down on media outlets. Due to threats from the government, social media accounts are now being erased. Likewise, the government is cancelling the press cards handed out to journalists while also refusing to pay ad revenue to newspapers.
What does the AKP want? The AKP views the media as the most important vehicle for social engineering and is attempting to manufacture consent with lies and disinformation. To coin a cliché, it does not want the truth to be told. It longs for a media that will see everything in rose-tinted glasses and yearns for a time when journalists will herald the exploits of the palace like court chroniclers.
We reiterate it again: We will not become your court pages, and you will not win.
Necessity is the mother of invention. The more your close media organizations, the more we will find new ways. We will scrawl the news on the walls, we will broadcast from our cell phones and we will read our news out loud in the streets. Whatever the case, we will get the truth to the people.