Human Rights in Turkey Press Freedom

Turkey’s long winter comes with raid on Cumhuriyet Daily [Op-Ed]

Written by Salih SARIKAYA

The Turkish government’s latest attack on press freedom was with Cumhuriyet Daily. 15 journalists, editors and top staff like Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel and Aydın Engin from Cumhuriyet Daily have been detained on Monday. There were 18 journalists on the list to be detained but some of them were abroad like former editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, Can Dündar.

The government attacks Cumhuriyet, because it is a symbol of journalism for most of the journalists in Turkey. Cumhuriyet Daily was founded in 1924 just one year after the foundation of Turkish Republic. It is of the same age with the republic. And also it is seen as the last citadel defending Turkey’s secularists, leftists, and Kurds also. The founder of Cumhuriyet was Yunus Nadi, a friend of Mustafa Kemal and a CHP deputy, so it is seen as a pillar of the country’s secularist establishment also. Most of the prominent journalists in Turkey have started journalism in Turkey’s oldest newspaper Cumhuriyet Daily.

You can support the political ideas of Cumhuriyet daily or not, but you can admit that Cumhuriyet is one of the main move columns of journalism in Turkey. Cumhuriyet has been a school of journalism for the country. And it is one of the most notable newspapers of Turkey, not with its’ circulation but with its’ impact on the society.

So Cumhuriyet Daily is more than a newspaper for most of the people in Turkey. So everyone knows that any probe on Cumhuriyet Daily means to attack for secularists and leftists also. Because of these, many people don’t see this attack to Cumhuriyet daily, but for the Turkish republic’s itself.

Unlike pro-AK Party newspapers’ government and big businessmen support, Cumhuriyet mainly depends on its readers and very small percentage of advertisers to survive.

The government has been attacking every group one by one. And it is also ridiculous that the police operation was launched on charges of supporting Gulen Movement. They were always on opposite sides, even when the government was supporting Gulen Movement in Turkey. Even columnist Hikmet Çetinkaya is under custody in charge of supporting Gulen Movement. Every single person in Turkey knows about the Hikmet Çetinkaya’s columns against Gulen. If supporting Gulen Movement is a crime, then the government should start detaining with all the AK Party managers and parliament members.

The government started a witch-hunt against all the opposing journalists and intellectuals using the ‘state of emergency’ after the July 15 coup attempt. The Turkish government has been using courts to silence all the opposing people for a long time.

Cumhuriyet Daily has been closed down by the military memorandum of March 12, 1971. It has been closed down two times after September 12, 1980 coup. And every time its’ journalists have been detained. Its journalists have been killed just because of their journalism success and opposition to the government or state.

A columnist from Hurriyet Daily, Kanat Akkaya has asked and answered that ‘How do you understand a coup in Turkey?’ ‘-If Aydin Engin is taken into custody, then I can understand that there is a coup.’. Aydin Engin is a victim of every military coup in Turkey because of his successful journalistic career.

I wrote two books on Turkish media and freedom of speech in Turkey two years ago. I have listed all the implementations of the Turkish government against media freedom in Turkey. Since that time, nothing has changed positively about press freedom in Turkey. But on the contrary, it has been worse every other day.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was defending him in the European Parliament with the argument that there is a media who criticizes them like Cumhuriyet. I’m wondering what would he say now.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said that this is ‘yet another red-line’ against media freedom in Turkey. But Turkish PM Binali Yildirim can easily answer nonchalantly saying ‘We don’t care about your red line’ to the Schulz’s critics about the press freedom in Turkey. Turkish government thinks that Syrian conflict; the future of events, ISIS threat and refugees in Turkey, is a bargaining chip for them against the E.U. and U.S. So Erdogan also sees these events in the area as an opportunity for his own presidency. He knows that E.U. and U.S. will not have much enforcement for Turkish government in that critical atmosphere. And Russia is also another factor in the area.

Lastly, the political atmosphere in Turkey is also very suitable for distortion. The freedom of obtainment of information has been limited day by day. And this is becoming with the crackdown on media one by one. I need to attribute the statement of Martin Niemöller to picture how the government has been silencing all opposing people group after group:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Does Turkey have another choice? Maybe, but in that atmosphere, everyone is attacking ‘others-which is defined by the government’ to defend themselves. So the government is using every group to silence the ‘new others’.

Unfortunately, a long ‘winter is coming’ for Turkey.

About the author



Salih SARIKAYA is a Turkish journalist and analyst.

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