Where law ends, tyranny begins

Where law ends, tyranny begins

I have come across this famous quote “Where law ends, tyranny begins,” carved on a wall at Capitol Hill in Des Moines, Iowa a few weeks ago. (The version at the Capitol Hill was attributed to William Pitt, a famous British statesman but it’s known that the quote originally belongs to British philosopher John Locke.)

However, what this quote reminded to me was the news that Ahmet Hakan, a prominent columnist of daily Hürriyet and TV programmer of CNNTürk, was subjected to a violent assault by perpetrators who were allegedly sympathizers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He was frequently threatened by some journalists working for pro-government media as well as by some AKP lawmakers who were indirectly provoking people to give a lesson to journalists like Ahmet Hakan. 

The signs of escalated hatred against certain media groups and journalists were clearly given by two consecutive physical attacks against the Hürriyet newspapers headquarters in Istanbul and printing facilities in Ankara early October. All these attacks are politically driven and unfortunately products of a strong smear campaign against these journalists by ruling party officials. 

This campaign was launched by President Erdoğan himself on the eve of June 7 elections, when he directly targeted a certain media group, its owners and individual journalists. He was immediately accompanied by so-called columnists and journalists of the pro-government media that have diffused their hatred through their media organs. 

At this point, it’s our demand from the prime minister to take measures in providing security for journalists’ lives and trying to create a suitable environment for the media to do its job without restriction. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has expressed his condemnation about the incident but he should do more to stop repetition of such assaults. This is one of his primary and fundamental responsibilities as the prime minister. 

But not only that: He also should urge his party grassroots to respect to the media’s freedom and warn them such attacks will be punished. Another group Davutoğlu has to urge should be the pro-government media and their editors that target individuals and provoke people against them, which are not part of media freedom. He should see this issue as urgent and move accordingly before it’s too late.

As I wrote in this column last week, world history will surely mark this period in Turkey as the dark age of press freedom. Those who are in power had better realize this and reverse their policies curbing media freedom. Otherwise, history will cite them as neo-tyrants in the shape of fake democrats.