Journalism is a fun game in Turkey…

Journalism is a fun game in Turkey…

As writing news has become sufficient reason to be placed behind bars or kicked out of the country, perhaps Turkish authorities may ban the distribution of Wall Street Journal in Turkey for having news on its pages.

Well, in any “normal” country, instead of placing a journalist behind bars for writing news that removed the veil of secrecy over national intelligence trucks “allegedly” carrying weapons and arms to “some people” in Syria, journalists like Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül would have been awarded. Actually, everyone except the Turkish government has been awarding them. If they manage to get out of prison soon, Dündar will probably receive yet another award, this time from Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF).

It has not become a major story in the Turkish media. How could it? The Turkish media has become so inward-looking that even occasionally, top editors remember Turkey is not just Istanbul and political news is not just what’s said or done by the almighty sultan and his clan of political Islamists. On-the-spot reporting – a tradition that’s not wanted at all by the Turkish government – has been the prime reason behind foreign news and media groups dispatching so many reporters, photo-reporters and cameramen to Turkey. In Turkey, however, foreign journalists are often perceived as “potential spies,” not necessarily by the government alone but also by the security apparatus and local officials.

What was Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink doing at a rally somewhere in a forgotten spot in the southeastern wilderness? Was she a “human shield” against a security operation, together with some local people? No one thought for a second that she was trying to cover a development on the spot. She was probably a spy and must be kicked out of the country, so she was ordered to pack up and get on the first plane to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, not a word of what’s been written so far was an exaggeration.

Or, why would some American journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury with Vice News, and an “Arabic-speaking guide” cross into Syria and come back to Turkey “illegally.” What were they doing with an Arabic-speaking guide? Of course Syria was not an Arab country, and people there speak French, so going there with an Arabic-speaking guide was rather suspicious. They must be spies. No one thought for a second that there had been no Turkey-Syria border for years and that people could cross with visas or through checkpoints. The Vice News team was dubbed “spies” and kicked out of the country, while there is no word about what happened to the imprisoned Arabic-speaking guide.

There are 2.2 million – the official number, the real number is well over 3 million – Syrian “guests” in this country and none came through the border gates with passports. Many Turkish correspondents – who are still able to write news stories other than what the ruling Islamist clan or the gang which has been trying to carve out a Kurdistan from Turkish territory allows them to write – cross into Syria almost every day without any documents or official permission. Even the other night, a foreign journalist friend was on the phone asking how he could cross into Syria “safely” because some of the passages used before had all been sealed by the Turkish military. 

This country has become such an awful place that it has become impossible to concentrate on anything, be it good or bad. No one has the right to express sorrow over the imprisonment of journalists because they were engaged in journalism – what a big crime – because someone somewhere presses another button and, all of a sudden, the country starts mourning the blatant daytime assassination of a leading human rights activist, Diyarbakır Bar Association chief Tahir Elçi, during a press statement in Diyarbakır’s Sur district regarding damage done to the 1,500-year-old Four-Legged Minaret Mosque by recent clashes between security forces and the separatist gang. He said bullets aimed at the minaret were tantamount to a “cultural assassination;” moments later, he was assassinated – apparently from close distance – with a bullet in the neck. With Elçi falling, Turkey has lost a very distinguished son who devoted a life to human rights and liberties in this country.

On the same day, there was a WSC article that said Turkey was asked by the United States to deploy some 30,000 troops to effectively seal off a 98-kilometer-long section of the Turkish-Syrian border (from Jarabulus to Çobanbey) that U.S. officials believe is mostly used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) to move foreign fighters in and out of the war zone. 

Naturally, that story will most probably be denied soon by either or both countries. But, after last week’s downing of Russian jet and escalating tension between Turkey and Russia over the development, there is need for something bigger. Could it be that Turkish troops with American backing start marching toward Syria, ready for combat?