Press Freedom

In Turkey, the right to free speech is being lost

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Written by Editor

Which country in the world currently imprisons more journalists than any other?

Turkey last week rose to No. 1 in the world — when it comes to journalists the government has in jail.

It even tops the People’s Republic of China, which has 18 times the population.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkish ruler ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan has imprisoned at least 120 media folks in the wake of the July coup attempt, on top of his purges of the military and judiciary, as well as the universities, police forces and classrooms.

Of course, Turkey has made No. 1 before, back when Erdogan was prime minister. (He’s now officially “president,” but “absolute tyrant-in-chief” is more accurate.)

Since he first took over as premier in 2003, Erdogan has launched more than 2,000 prosecutions of people who’ve offended him — from students playing darts with his photo as the board to a guy behind a social-media post comparing Erdogan to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “small, slimy creature” Gollum.

ERDOGAN HAS ROUTINELY SQUELCHED SPEECH BY SHUTTING DOWN SOCIAL MEDIA

For years, Erdogan has routinely squelched speech by shutting down social media and the Internet when he has deemed it appropriate. And Twitter’s Transparency Report shows that Turkey’s also No. 1 when it comes to demands for the removal of “offensive” posts, accounting for 15,000 of the 20,000 accounts fingered this year.

Even the few newspapers free of direct government control fear to criticize the dictator; Istanbul’s Cumhuriyet is practically the last holdout. In The Washington Post last month, Cumhuriyet journalist Asli Aydintasbas noted:

“As I write these lines, citizens cannot communicate to organize demonstrations — Twitter is down in Turkey, Facebook is unreachable, and social-media applications such as WhatsApp remain blocked. The social-media crackdown is an entirely unnecessary measure; who would go out and risk arrest when there is an emergency rule and a formal ban on protests? Protests happen in free and semi-free societies — or when people have the feeling that they have a change to make an impact.”

Aydintasbas writes that Turkey “is a shell of itself.” She might as well say: a democracy no more.

Source: NYT

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