In the name of ‘ghost writers’
I am pleasantly surprised by the critical remarks of a Radikal columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz on the current state of press freedom in Turkey (March 15). The occasion was the recent attack of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Milliyet newspaper that led a prominent columnist, Hasan Cemal, to temporarily quit writing.
Despite the fact that Hasan Cemal himself did not stand up against the political pressure on his newspaper and himself, Cengiz states that he feels disturbed by the ghost of Cemal and indeed by the “ghosts” of all those columnists who disappeared from the mainstream media one by one. It seems that the term “ghost writer” changed its meaning in Turkey and now refers to those who are excluded from mostly mainstream media.
It was a surprise because nobody has dared to make a clear remark on those journalists and columnists who were silenced by governmental pressure, so far. On the contrary, those who face political pressures have been further accused by their colleagues. Even Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, who ended up in prison, have been convicted by some of their journalist friends of possibly having some dark connections or of being used by some “dark forces.”
As Cengiz points out, some have been accused of extreme views, of making inappropriate criticisms, of being non-democrats themselves, or even of getting high salaries. I know how it feels to be doubly pressured by the government and the so-called self-styled democrats of Turkey, in the process of being excluded from mainstream media after Erdoğan attacked me during his 2011 election campaign.
Unfortunately, the main principle of being a democrat has long since been forgotten; that it is not the victims of political pressures on whom to put the blame but those who pressure and silence them. Speaking of principles, another basic principle is that democrats are expected to be concerned by all sorts of voices of aggression and discrimination like sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and violations of privacy. Nevertheless, democrats of Turkey did not bother, so far, to question the most aggressive pro-government media organs, not to break their peculiar “pact of democracy.”
After all, this is a country where some intellectuals keep criticizing first of all the media, even after the recent attack by Erdoğan, and by accusing the media of not being democratic. Moreover, Erdoğan is even praised that “at least he is sincere but media is neither democratic nor sincere” (Etyen Mahçupyan, Taraf, March 13).
Well then, apparently “tutti stanno bene,” only very few in this country complain of lack of freedoms. Under the circumstances, a more democratic Turkey and therefore more freedom of expression is still far away unless the mood changes soon. Still, I hope more intellectuals will start to question the current “democracy pact” between the government and democrats like Cengiz.
As “one of the ghosts,” I want to thank him for speaking up finally in the name of “ghost writers.”