Where does Turkey stand in the world?
To be able to go outside of your own world, to see how the reality you have built is seen by others, to feel not only your own reality, but that you are a part of the entire world…
These are important traits both for individuals and countries.
Or else, there were people living in Enver Hoxha’s Albania where nobody ever compared themselves in any way with the world; they would marry, have children and indeed have their happy times, but without knowing how other people lived. However, one day, the wall collapsed. They saw how meaningless the “bunkers” were that were built in the yards of their houses aiming to defend the country.
Today, people live in North Korea. People, who collectively shed tears after their “beloved leader,” whose lives are dependent on what comes out of the lips of a half-lunatic person; people who cannot compare themselves with the outer world, actually not even with their brothers and sisters in their immediate south.
Turkey is not such a country. Despite all of our restrictions and shortcomings, we are able to compare ourselves with the world and see how we live compared to people in other parts of the world.
However, one needs to look in order to see; and also not be afraid to face how others see us.
The other morning, I saw it just before I left the hotel to go the Sabancı Conference in the Brookings Institute to be delivered by former U.S. State Secretary Madeline Allbright in Washington. The prestigious Freedom House had issued its latest report and had moved Turkey from the “partly free” category to the “not free” category in terms of press freedom.
What has happened that we went down a category? If we do not like to see ourselves in the mirror, then we can try to get by saying, “These Westerners have always been prejudiced against us anyway. And their news sources are those traitors who are eager to report against Turkey.” We would make the propaganda of the Turk to the Turk and even make ourselves feel better, but the image in the mirror will not change.
If you disregard that those journalists trying to do their jobs are left without jobs, that journalists are forced to take the sides of being absolutely pro-government or severely oppositional, where being the owner of media outlets is only good for those siding with the government, where economic pressures over newspapers and TV stations are exceeding political pressures, where restrictions over freedom of expression stay still despite all the democratization reforms; yes, then, in Turkey’s press is free.
It is true that every day the government is cursed in the newspapers and there are also papers cursing the opposition. But this is not the criteria of freedom and also cursing is not accepted as an activity of journalism.
To say the press is free by looking at the presence of curses is exactly what you would call “propaganda of the Turk to the Turk,” it is the indicator of being local, not global.
Debate on the style to address Turkey
The president of Germany came and criticized Turkish democracy in Ankara with the attitude of a school principal; he listed the shortcomings of the government and what should be done.
Our prime minister was angry at him; he criticized the German president with words that should not be said to a foreign leader.
We all together experienced this incident this week.
There was nothing wrong in what the German president said. It may be regarded as holding a mirror to our faces, but the problem was the style, the way they were said; exactly like the speech of the Head of the Constitutional Court.
Allbright also criticized Turkey, but I don’t think anybody in Ankara would oppose her. It is the style. There is an active debate, a search in Washington on how this style should be developed, how these criticisms should be conveyed to Turkey in a constructive way, both in the American administration and in think tanks dealing with Turkey.
The gap between the perception in Turkey of the government on how Europe and America view Turkey’s democratization and the perception of Europe and America on the situation of freedoms in Turkey is widening, especially after the Gezi incidents.
And unfortunately, this difference in perceptions works against us, Turkish citizens.