About press freedom, or: shut up
Inciting hatred among the people, that seems to be the law most often used to shut up journalists. It’s been used again and again against Kurdish journalists writing about the PKK or other subjects related to the Kurdish issue, and journalists arrested for alleged links to Ergenekon are also accused of it. The latest victims: journalists of the online news portal OdaTV, among them its owner Soner Yalçın. As if that’s not shocking enough in itself, Prime Minister Erdogan was quick to say that there is no problem whatsoever with press freedom in Turkey.
The office of OdaTV (‘oda’ means ‘room’) was raided earlier this week, along with the houses of Yalçın and two of his fellow editors. Computers and documents were taken, but so far it’s unclear what makes the judiciary think the news portal is connected to Ergenekon. All we have heard up to now is that OdaTV published secret documents (which can be applauded, because uncovering secrets and publishing them is usually just fine journalism), they ‘incited hatred among the people’ (not clear how) and are supposedly Ergenekon members. How’s that decided anyway?
OdaTV is not a government supporter, to say the least. They are known to be ‘neo-nationalist’, a form of nationalism combined with fundamentalist Kemalism (that usually gives me chills in my spine). They despise the current government, and wouldn’t let a chance go by to let us know why. To Europeans, I sometimes think, these guys with wild hair and beards being arrested may look like freedom fighters and ‘good guys’, but believe me, their nationalism is extreme and not pro-freedom for all.
Anyway, OdaTV is not an exception when it comes to not even trying to be objective: the same goes for many Turkish media, and it’s far from a crime. As long as media don’t break the law, they should be able to write whatever they want, and it’s up to their readers to decide if there is a place for them in the media landscape. Not up to a judge. Not based on vague accusations, using vague laws that are bendable in any direction you like.
And Erdogan, well, I switched off the sound of the TV in the office yesterday while he was giving a speech. He is a good speaker, but the combination of his diction and the things he said, made me want to shut him up. Shamelessly saying that Turkey has no problem with press freedom, while almost fifty journalists are in jail and Turkey tumbling down the World Press Freedom List compiled by Reporters without Borders, ending up in place 138 of 178 countries, is just outrageous. He says it’s the judiciary that decides on arrests and opening court cases. Yes, that’s the way it is (or should be), but Mr. Erdogan, as a politician it’s up to you to make the laws the judiciary follows. It’s your task to ensure press freedom. And you’re making a mess of it.
They’re absolutely not pro-freedom that’s correct. They’re better known for their smear campaigns against the journalists, intellectuals, prominent public figures whom they don’t like. False accusations, attacks on personality, linking people’s ethnic heritage with their political alignments are their methods. I simply don’t consider them as journalists or activists defending a cause. Their sole aim is to vilify and defame anti-Kemalist intellectuals, liberals and pro-AKP people. This point should be made known too!