In light of recent events, ranging from laws implemented to restrict internet freedom while tightening governmental control to a series of police arrests made on December 14th of journalists, screenwriters, and other media agents, there is an increasing level of concern over the state of Turkey democracy and its citizens’ freedom of expression.
In a recent editorial piece included on “The Opinion Pages” of the New York Times, the question “Is Turkey descending into a state of paranoia?” was posited. Based on the radical measures initiated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even if it isn’t paranoia, it does appear that there is a rising level of instability that is greatly impacting its citizens’ ability to speak out about events occurring in their own country. As observed in the editorial piece:
[President Erdogan’s] efforts to stifle criticism and dissent show an authoritarian leader living in a parallel universe, one where being a democracy, a NATO ally and a candidate for membership in the European Union are somehow compatible with upending the rule of law and stifling freedom of expression.
Although President Erdogan has made efforts to establish Turkey as a member of the European Union, it is his contradictory stifling of opposition media and press that challenges his presidency and that has left the global community in a state of dismay and confusion regarding Turkey’s treatment expression and speech — freedoms that are fundamental and core aspects of any democratic governmental system.
As Cengiz Candar, a journalist critical of the current Turkish government, tweeted regarding the recent events like the arrests, “This is a reckless move toward dictatorship… It is nothing else than a rough attack against media freedoms with the pretext of a ‘community operation.'” Furthermore, spokeswoman of the State Department Jen Paski has stated:
Media freedom, due process and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish Constitution. As Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey’s own democratic foundations.
State officials and journalists are the few who are commenting on the events, though. As Nobel Laurate and popular Turkish author Orhan Pamuk expressed in a recent interview with The Daily Hurriyet regarding this particular issue, “The worst thing is that there’s a fear. I find that everyone is afraid; it’s not normal… Freedom of expression has fallen to a very low level.”
Pamuk, who himself has been accused of being a “puppet of a mysterious ‘international literature lobby’,” has experienced first-hand the critical and radical measures being taken against freedom of expression. Regardless, Pamuk has expressed repeatedly in interviews and his own journalistic writing that it is important that the conversation regarding these repeated violations continues to occur. Although the actions of those who speak out are leading to their unjust arrests, their stories are getting out, and the global community is very much watching events unfolding in Turkey.
As attention increases, the Turkish government is being forced into a position where they will need to reevaluate their actions and start taking strides to protect their citizens’ right to freedom of expression. EU officials have stated that Turkey’s arrests of press agents are “incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy.” If Turkey wishes to continue to petition their entry into such unions as the EU, they will need to take drastic measure to stop blatantly attacking those who are already fighting to make Turkey a member of the larger global community.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!