Free speech threatened in Turkey

This video says about itself:

Turkish author Pamuk ‘worried about free speech in Turkey

31 March 2016

Orhan Pamuk is Turkey’s most famous author. The Istanbul native was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. His books, such as “Snow” and “My Name Is Red”, have been translated into more than 60 languages. We caught up with him in Paris, where he is promoting director Grant Gee’s film “Innocence of Memories“, based on his novel “The Museum of Innocence”.

Orhan Pamuk gave us his point of view on the current political climate in Turkey.

By Steve Sweeney and Caroline Stockford in Istanbul, Turkey:

Turkey: Writers defiant as trial is adjourned

Friday 13th January 2017

Three facing terrorism charges pledge to defend free speech

THE trial of three prominent Turkish writers was adjourned in Istanbul on Wednesday as the defendants vowed to defend the “basic human right of freedom of speech.”

Ahmet Nesin, Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Reporters Sans Frontieres journalist Erol Onderoglu appeared at the Caglayan High Criminal Court in Istanbul on Wednesday, charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” — namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The three had acted as guest editors of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem as a symbolic act of solidarity with Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay, who were recently released on bail.

A packed courtroom, with international writers’ and solidarity groups from Germany, Italy and Welsh PEN present, heard the judge adjourn the trial until March, when the case will be heard alongside others related to Ozgur Gundem.

Following the adjournment, the defendants addressed people gathered outside the court. Prof Fincanci said: “We are here to defend the basic human right of freedom of speech. There can be no freedom for us while journalists are still in prison.

“Our solidarity struggle is to create a better environment both in Turkey and the world. International solidarity shows that we are all struggling together.

“We thank all of our colleagues from abroad and we have had thousands of messages of support from people saying that we are in their hearts. So feel this support and feel powerful.”

Newspaper Evrensel editor-in-chief Fatih Polat said: “There is not much difference in being inside or outside prison for journalists in Turkey at the moment.”

Earlier, in the same Istanbul court, the trial of Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and journalist Erdem Gul was also adjourned.

They face charges over a story in 2015 in which they alleged to have uncovered the smuggling of arms to Syria by intelligence services.

Mr Dundar did not appear at the court as he is in exile in Germany.

But Mr Gul remained defiant, stating: “The only evidence in our case is journalism. The media is on trial.

“All journalists should be freed immediately from prisons in Turkey. The only organisation we are members of is the journalists’ organisation.”

He finished by quoting the words of poet Can Yucel: “However much we are able to live without lies, so much the better.”

See also here.

Turkish media banned from reporting on terrorism: here.

5 thoughts on “Free speech threatened in Turkey

  1. Saturday 21st January 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    If this article was published in Turkey, STEVE SWEENEY could be jailed, tortured and beaten

    TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a tyrant. He is an authoritarian bully intent on concentrating further power into his hands as his rule sweeps away democracy and free speech.

    Even writing the words above carries serious consequences in Turkey. It would almost certainly be deemed “insulting the president,” which under Turkish law carries a maximum four-year prison sentence.

    Many that I spoke to in Istanbul and other parts of the country speak of Erdogan and the ruling AKP in terms of fascism. It is easy to see why.

    All forms of opposition to the ruling party and Erdogan himself are being crushed. TV stations are shut down, newspapers closed and journalists jailed, opposition MPs are arrested, detained and threatened with jail terms of hundreds of years.

    Erdogan wants to change the constitutional ceremonial status of the Turkish presidency to one with executive power. In reality he wields this already and has been known to chair cabinet meetings.

    However the amendments proposed by Turkey’s ruling AKP and backed by the ultra-nationalist MHP are aimed at enhancing the power of the president and their influence over parliament and the courts while also either completely eliminating or weakening the checks and balances between the branches of the government. The new constitution would see the ending of the role of prime minister and would mean the country would be ruled by one man: Erdogan. The clock would stop on Erdogan’s term limits, meaning that he could rule over Turkey until 2029, a prospect that many find chilling.

    It would be Erdogan that would control budgets, appoint key positions including cabinet posts and perhaps more importantly to the judiciary.

    It would essentially gut Turkey of any form of opposition and concentrate power in the hands of one individual.

    In a worrying move the president would have the power to dissolve parliament which some warn would make the country akin to a fascist state.

    Erdogan is certainly moving toward a dictatorship. His powers have been increased under the guise of the state of emergency which has recently been extended. He has moved to silence all opposition and pave the way for the constitutional changes necessary to increase his powers. In each of my recent visits to the country, the political situation has deteriorated. It has become a country where everyone is a suspect.

    Despite this Erdogan retains huge popularity among the Turkish people. His personal approval ratings are consistently above 50 per cent and following the failed coup attempt last year they rocketed to 57 per cent.

    The AKP has been forced to deny rumours and speculation that a snap election is imminent, claiming that it is opposition parties and organisations that are making these assertions.

    The rumours may have some credibility — certainly the secularist opposition party CHP believes so. When I met with Istanbul MP Cemal Canplolat recently, he told me that they were organising in preparation for a snap election so they weren’t caught off guard. He told me how they had trained thousands of young people to knock on doors and to stand by ballot boxes.

    The ruling AKP finds its political strength in the economy and it is this that has helped delivered its electoral success. In 2008 a poll suggested that 85 per cent of those who voted for the AKP in the 2007 election which swept them to power did so because of the economy.

    They did so with the support of the Gulen movement whose alliance with the AKP allowed both to become dominant forces in Turkish politics with a supportive national media until their falling out in 2013.

    Their popularity gave the ruling party the ability to push through neoliberal reforms and retain the support of the Turkish bourgeoisie in a way that would have not previously been possible.

    And for a while, the economy proved to be a success. GDP expanded and inflation was brought down from 29.7 per cent in 2002 to just 6.2 per cent in 2012. For a period there was cause to be optimistic for the future of the Turkish economy.

    However the Turkish lira remains unstable, unemployment is rising dramatically and growth appears to be stagnating.

    This poses a problem for Erdogan and the AKP. Recognising this, a series of statements from Erdogan over recent weeks has heard him denounce the West for plotting to destabilise the Turkish economy.

    The performance of the lira has been erratic-leading Erdogan to declare a war on foreign currency. As the lira has fallen a dramatic 25 per cent against the dollar and the euro, he called for a “national mobilisation” against the speculators as he evoked the spirit that brought people onto the streets during the failed coup.

    In December 2016, Erdogan made a call on national television for people to convert their foreign currency to Turkish lira in order to stimulate the economy.

    “For those who have foreign currencies under the pillow,” he said, “come change this to gold, come change this to Turkish lira. Let the lira win greater value. Let gold win greater value.”

    His call for popular support for the lira may strike a chord with some however it is highly unlikely to offer a solution to the problems facing the Turkish economy.

    The US dollar has already been linked to support for the Gulen movement. Erdogan claims that supporters of Gulen receive a $1 note when they visit him in the US and the serial number on the note is, in fact, their Gulen movement membership number.

    I witnessed this when I observed the trial of two journalists in Mersin.

    A fake $1 note that was found in the house of one of the reporters was presented as evidence of their support for an armed terrorist organisation — charges the men were cleared of.

    And Erdogan is acutely aware of the problems and potential weakening of his support that a failing economy presents as he seeks to blame the West and in particular the US for undermining the Turkish economy.

    “You know that the economy is used to attack Turkey.

    There is no difference in terms of goals between the terrorist with a gun in his hand a terrorist with dollars and euros in his hands.

    “The goal is to topple Turkey, to make it kneel and stray from its goals. They are using the foreign exchange rate as a weapon.”

    But the performance of the Turkish lira should come as no surprise.

    Currency value tends to fall when there is a weak economy, political instability or when a central bank cuts interest rates.

    Turkey currently ticks all three of those boxes and the signs are that the economy may slide into recession.

    Turkey’s real gross domestic product shrank 1.8 per cent on the year for the July-September quarter, contracting for the first time in seven years and with Turkish companies relying heavily on foreign capital, the lira’s crash means debt has spiralled.

    The failing economy is one of the reasons for the reconciliation between Erdogan and Vladimir Putin as the continuation of Russian- imposed sanctions would have had a major impact and served to weaken Erdogan.

    Opposition to the ruling party and the constitution is difficult. With a virtual media blackout due to the shutting down of opposition newspapers and TV stations and the arrest and imprisonment of journalists and MPs, discussion and debate inside and outside of parliament has been squashed.

    Brawls have broken out in Turkey’s Grand Assembly as the constitutional reforms have been debated and one MP, Aylin Nazliaka, who protested by chaining herself to the podium was attacked with a prosthetic limb as two MPs were hospitalised.

    Many that I spoke to in Turkey said there was no democracy in Turkey and the constitutional reforms were not subject to scrutiny or debate.

    “People are being left out of the discussions,” an HDP official told me in Istanbul.

    EMEP general secretary Selma Gurkan told me “as long as we have the working class, we have hope,” ahead of a launch of the campaign for a No vote in the constitution referendum.

    Gurkan described the plans as a “constitutional coup” as she explained how marches, strikes and public meetings are banned in Turkey under the state of emergency.

    “As a party, we will be fighting back,” she vowed as she explained how the No campaign had been door to door delivering material, flyers and daily newspapers including Evrensel.

    They have also leafleted mosques and Gurkan said this was important as “not everyone who attends mosque is a supporter of AKP and Erdogan.

    There are CHP and HDP supporters and also ultra-nationalists but it is key that we discuss and debate as we try to win support.”

    There are risks. Gurkan explained how one young woman had been followed by an unmarked black car and was then caught and beaten with a threat that she “would not be so lucky next time.”

    However she explained that there is a collective of 104 organisations including trade unions, political parties, women’s and human rights groups, joining in a network together for democracy to campaign against the constitutional changes.

    “We are not going to give in — the labour movement in Turkey has not died.”

    It is a message of hope in what are dark times for the country.

    The people of Turkey demand our solidarity and they should know that they are not alone.

    Steve Sweeney is a Morning Star reporter.


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