Another list, again with journalists
For a long time, it has been the case of “journalists under arrest” that has been used as a reference to show that freedom of expression in Turkey, and consequently its democracy, was moving backward.
Several reports issued especially in the past two years and debates stemming from these reports have damaged the perception of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the Western world from the aspect of its democratic record. They have put a shadow on Turkey’s image in the international community.
There is another list that is closely related to Turkey’s democratic credibility. Moreover, this list is not open to debate as in the case of arrested journalists, in which the line generally goes, “But they do not have yellow press cards; they are actually terrorists.”
This is the list of journalists who find themselves outside the playing field because of their “stances.”
The common denominator of the figures on this list is that their views are generally different than those in power. The majority of them are names who criticize the government or choose to remain at a distance, but there are also those who, even though they generally support the government, have become victims because they have expressed criticism merely on one subject.
In summary, we are talking about figures who can’t really be grouped together. However, their common denominator is that they view what is going on around them from a lens somehow outside the discourse of the government.
We also come across some figures who have infuriated certain people. In this context, a portion of them are those people who have been pointed out by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. For example, Nuray Mert, in this way, lost her program on news channel NTV, then later her column for daily Milliyet after being the target of a harsh proclamation of the prime minister during the 2011 election campaign.
Former Milliyet writer Hasan Cemal is the latest person to be included on this list.
When we observe the general trend, there are many reasons to assume that the list will expand with new participants in the coming months because the expansion of the list is a course that is supported by facts that are constantly repeating themselves.
You cannot talk about this kind of a course as normal in any democracy.
One of the essential conditions of advanced democracies is the maturity to tolerate criticism. What has happened to many of our colleagues shows us that we are very far from such a tolerance threshold in Turkey today.
There is also another important drawback in this constraint. When the perception that criticizing the government is a risky business becomes widespread, then it is inevitable that this will create a “chilling effect” on the entire press. This situation, no doubt, will negative affect independent reporting.
It is no longer credible that government sources state that this situation is not related to them but the responsibility lies with media bosses. If it is really so, then it is the duty of the government to end this climate that is suffocating freedom of expression; in other words, just the opposite of the attitude that is being demonstrated in front of the microphone...
Also, we all share the same arena; we see everything.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on March 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.