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  • Freedom of Press in Turkey
Published 2 August 2016

The risks to freedom of press in Turkey have worsened especially in recent months. There is a growing list of nearly 2,000 cases of journalists, academics and others who unfortunately face trial and imprisonment for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan. At the beginning of this week the government closed down the Zaman newspaper, Cihan News Agency, and Feza publishing Group, effective from May 15th 2016. Zaman newspaper was accused of being a strong supporter of Fethullah Gülen, who is a main oppose of Erdoğan.

Turkey at this moment is ranked 151st amongst the 180 countries in the ‘Reporters Borders World Press Freedom Index 2016. More than 30 journalists are behind bars, all for reasons unjustifiable under the European Court of Human Rights. Discriminatorily, most of those journalists behind bars are of Kurdish origin; and alongside all this the state keeps its position in arguing that journalism in Turkey is among the freest in the world. 

Just three days after many celebrated Press Freedom Day and marked the day as tribute to the martyrs of the field, Can Dündar editor-in-chief of Turkish daily cumhuriyet and his fellow journalist Erdem Gül were acquitted on charges of trying to overthrow the government. On, May 6, Can Dündar was sentenced to more than five years in prison, for “publishing secret state documents.”

More recently, the Pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency reporters have also faced great impairment. Mehmet Hakkı Yılmaz, who was the first to arrive at the scene of the bomb attack in Dîlok (Antep) was detained; and held in Anti-Terror Branch Directorate. The lawyers of Dicle News Agency were strictly not informed at first, and only on insistence was it approved where Yilmaz had exactly been taken.

On a shamefully similar account, where Turkish state forces conducted raids on houses in the Savur district of Mardin; DIHA reporter Abdulkadir Turay and the deputy mayor was detained. Alongside the reporters, five residents were detained. No specific information was obtained for the reason of detention; however what is known is that they were taken to District Gendarmerie station.

It comes as no shock that the Turkish state has a strong belief that it have true permission to conduct such activities; with less than none intervention by the Western world, the dictatorial state seems almost unstoppable. The reporters of Dicle News Agency have been the targets of the Turkish police force ever since the “peace talks” came to an end. Idris Yılmaz, also a reporter of DIHA was remanded in custody in Van’s Erciş district. Alongside Idris, Women’s News Agency reporter Vildan Atmaca was also remanded in custody; they were covering the disastrous military blockade in Erciş. The detention had come during the police onslaught on local innocent people, who were exercising their natural human right to protest, against the blockade and siege by police and military forces.

Later on, both Idris Yılmaz and Vildan Atmaca, were referred to a vacation court which ordered their arrest on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organistion” and “insulting the President”. These charges are almost created as an excuse to prevent the most vital infrastructure of democratic process— that is Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Conscience; after all Freedom of expression gets in the way of the President and his cabinet in establishing the most strictly dictatorial infrastructure.

Many more examples continue, where the Turkish state and its enforcements are preventing the free flow of press and the field of democratic presentation of all. Nedim Oruç who was reported missing for a length of two days; was arrested by a court in the Silopi district of Şırnak, on charges of aiding and abetting the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party. During the 48 hours that Oruç was assumed missing, the hashtage #NedimOrucNerede (Where is Oruc?) was born on twitter, where people all over the world became subjective criticizers of the detention.

In total there are now 13 Dicle News Agency reporters detained by the Turkish State for reasons that can only be clarified as excuse.

With the arrest and detainment of these reporters, comes the inhumane derogation process. This can involve all types of torture and terror; all gone unreported. The derogation is often so severe, that they believe cattle are treated better. Kurds, and there supporters all over former Northern Kurdistan, are targets of the state, all in risk of facing repulsive treatment by law enforcements – enforcers who go beyond international law, and treat each case with boundless violence and inexplicable anger.

It seems that the Turkish Government has finally accomplished to destroy one of the most imperative aspects of a democracy.

Predictably neither the Turkish Government nor Erdoğan are showing signs of remorse, or of succumbing to international pressure to limit its growing restrictions on the true essence of democracy.

It comes as personal opinion, that the Turkish Government positively will do little, regarding the 105 intellectuals, journalists, artists, academics and writers who signed a declaration calling for the release of the arrested Dicle News Agency reporters. However the declaration seems to also have a petition collecting signatures on change.org.

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