Is Turkey a free country?

Is Turkey a free country?

Turkey has been fuming over a Freedom House report that downgraded the country from “Partly Free” into the “Not Free” category in its annual Freedom of the Press report. Bashing Freedom House might be more than enough for any country wishing to get a Grade A in its ties with Ankara; the situation is that serious.

Is Turkey really a “Not Free” country? Or is it better to look at what Turkey needs to undertake in order be qualified as a “Free” or “Semi Free” country? A government issuing statements and claiming it has become the best democracy in the world does not mean much as long as democracy existed in that country not only as a concept, but also with its norms, values and institutions. If the Turkish Constitution is cleared of “ifs and buts,” it indeed perhaps is an exemplary document as regards rights and freedoms. Yet, with ifs and buts, everything given with one hand is being taken back with the other. Why? A problem of mentality, is it not?

The number of journalists behind bars is, of course, a handicap in front of those claiming that Turkey is a free country. It is so easy to say there is not any journalist behind bars if only the ones praising the government or the government’s bootlickers are considered journalists. I might not subscribe to their worldview or even disagree with them as regards to the way they have been doing the profession, but can I agree with the foreign minister that Turkey has become the champion of press freedom, while indeed Turkey has been, for the past many years, one of the champions of imprisoned journalists?

Who decides who is a journalist? The foreign minister, the premier, or the press and publications department? Is it really a must to have that yellow press card in order to be qualified as a journalist? Who is indeed a journalist, the one airing a nature documentary on penguins or the one gassed, beaten up and soaked with the police’s water cannons at Gezi Park or elsewhere? Why were penguins considered by that TV channel more important than what was going on down at Taksim Square? Was it not the editor on duty who made that decision because he was afraid for his job, the future of his work place? This is the atmosphere of fear which indeed has made Turkey a “non-free” country.

Just look back and remember the hundreds of journalists that were fired since last summer; how newspaper offices were shrunk and how a massive misuse of offices, favoritism and sheer corruption cases were turned into a noble resistance to an attempted coup? Who was staging the coup, with what means? No one is questioning... The boss has decided so, thus they are disseminating the propaganda, that’s all. Are those friends in those allegiant media so happy of becoming agents of propaganda? They appear so for the time being, but personally I am convinced they feel obliged to be part of that machine because of primarily the atmosphere of fear, but more so because of the bitter dictate of life: They needed those jobs for the wellbeing of their families.

The government says the existence of some critics in the media demonstrate how big a democracy Turkey is. Really? Count those critics in the media? How many are there today, how many were there yesterday? Right, instead of dealing with critics in the media, the government is changing the ownership of media outlets; new owners are putting in order their work places. Can all of us forget how, with government’s affectionate collaboration, a pool was called to buy a media group so recently?

Were you up last night? Parliament debated through the night how to cover up the massive graft allegations against four ministers.

This is Turkey, free or not free; this is Turkey’s bitter reality.