Why did the prime minister go to Strasbourg?
For us who live in Turkey, our trial with the freedom of expression never ends. Especially after having lived through the deep darkness of the 1980s and the 1990s and having begun tasting the relative freedoms of the 2000s, when we see our freedom of expression issues restarting today, one unavoidably gets desperate.
Yes, the freedom of expression pendulum in Turkey is moving once more toward the restriction of freedoms.
Our courts once more are accompanying the blowing winds, sometimes jailing people without even feeling the need to find a justification.
For instance, take the situation of some academics who signed a certain declaration. The court arrested them not for a thing they did, but for a thing they did not do. Yes, the academics were arrested because they did not condemn the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is very difficult to understand.
We have seen such decisions in the past, but should these kinds of practices now be left in the past?
Fortunately, our situation is quite different than the 1980s and the 1990s because now we have a double check system. For both court decisions which restrict freedom of expression and also unjust arrest decisions, an appeal to the Constitutional Court can be made and if no result comes out of this, the road to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is also open.
Obviously it is not adequate and for this reason Turkey is being heavily discussed on the whole world’s agenda. Especially because a German TV artist will start being tried in Germany, the situation of freedoms in Turkey has become a topic of serious debates in Europe and America. Major newspapers in the West almost every day refer to the situation of freedoms in Turkey.
In such an environment, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited France’s Strasbourg, a city which is virtually the capital of Europe’s values and freedoms system, and addressed the Council of Europe’s Parliamentarian Assembly, in addition to conducting meetings in the ECHR. How would you interpret this?
The day the Council of Europe decided to exclude Turkey from its monitoring and reporting system after the reform process in Turkey in the 2000s, the government had celebrated. Today, Turkey is not in that situation but our image is deteriorating.
The prime minister’s visit to the Council of Europe is actually a part of the effort to change the image.
However, of course, we should not expect that our country’s image would change with such symbolic visits; there are things Turkey should do and there are conducts Turkey should change.
As a first step, as a starter, we can say that the prime minister’s visit planted successful seeds. However, for these seeds to sprout, the pledge the prime minister made in the Council of Europe that “the spirit of the new constitution will be in harmony with the European Convention of Human Rights” should be met.
Turkey is, once more, going through the circle of terror and, as happened in the past every time terror escalated, we are seeing that freedoms are under threat. For this reason, when Davutoğlu said Turkey wished to see solidarity from the West in its anti-terror campaign, especially when he was saying that in the Council of Europe, he actually meant something else:
You should abandon double standards against Turkey; let go of the differentiation of “my terrorist – your terrorist;” Europe’s security and stability is the same thing as Turkey’s security and stability.
How much of this reality has Europe understood, I wonder…