Monday, March 28, 2016

Turkey's War on Press Freedom

Turkey’s War on Press Freedom

by Stephen Lendman

Police states give no quarter, Turkey under Erdogan one of the worst. Criticizing his policies risks arrest, prosecution, imprisonment or assassination. Dissent is a criminal offense.

A previous article said journalists, academics, public figures, human rights activists, even young children criticizing regime policy face charges ranging from insulting the president to terrorism, espionage or treason.

Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country. Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul face espionage and treason charges, longterm imprisonment if convicted for doing their jobs responsibly.

Cumhuriyet published photos of Ankara intelligence smuggling weapons to ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria - including artillery and mortar shells, as well as heavy and regular machine gun rounds - clear evidence along with volumes more showing Erdogan’s ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Last November in court, Dundar said he and Gul “came to defend journalism…to defend the right of the public to obtain the news and their right to know if their government is feeding them lies.” 

“We came here to show and to prove that governments cannot engage in illegal activity and defend this.”

Both men were imprisoned pending trial, held three months, largely in solitary confinement. In late February, Turkey’s constitutional court (its highest judicial authority) ordered them released, ruling their rights were violated.

Erdogan said they’d be tried anyway, promising they’ll “pay a heavy price.” Proceedings began in March, adjourned on Friday - to continue secretly beginning April 1, closed to the public, media coverage prohibited.

Addressing supporters, Dundar said “(w)hat we have been trying to say since the beginning is that the government is trying to hide this case.” 

“They are trying to take it away from the people. They are trying to hide not just the case but the news piece which is the subject of the case.” 

“Because they are caught in the act here. And there is a government which is caught in the act in front of the whole world. We will keep our challenge up till the end regarding the freedom of the press, the freedom of justice, and allowing people to learn the truth.”

Dundar explained he and Gul were targeted as punishment for responsible journalism and to intimidate others.

Erdogan blasted foreign diplomats, academics and journalists for packing the courtroom before proceedings were temporarily adjourned.

Turkey’s regime controlled media called them “inva(ders).” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Konstantin Dolgov denounced the show trial as one of numerous “blatant violations of the freedom of the press, of speech and of expression by Turkish authorities.”

Ankara launched “a crackdown on the media that takes the liberty of providing more or less impartial coverage of the Turkish government’s policy.” 

“They are persecuted. And this is not the only example. Some journalists have already been sentenced for insulting President Erdogan.”

Regime authorities “fear…exposure of their abusive practices (and) international law violations.”

Erdogan is a world-class thug, a valued US ally, feted by Western leaders, his high crimes ignored.

A Final Comment

Major media in America are virtually state controlled, operating as mouthpieces of power, supporting imperial wars and corporate interests, reporting little about civil and human rights abuses, especially harming the nation’s most disadvantaged.

Print media would lose access to government officials for exposing their high crimes and other abuses of power. So would broadcasters along with losing their operating licenses. Now they use public airwaves free of charge.

The main difference between Turkey and America is style, not policy. Anyone challenging regime authority in both countries risks harsh recrimination. 

The same holds in other Western societies and Israel - tyrannies masquerading as democracies.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

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