According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey ranks first in jailing journalists, thus replacing Iran, which is now second, followed by China, and Syria. This is quite surprising because it contradicts the image of Turkey in the Arab world, that of an economically prosperous, politically influential regional power that with its successes puts the rest of the Muslim world to shame.
Yet, the CPJ report unraveled the dark side and accused Erdogan’s government of launching the fiercest campaign against freedom of the press in modern history. The majority of jailed journalists are Kurds who, Turkish authorities claim, are detained on terrorist charges and not in their capacity as journalists.
However, the report and several testimonies reveal that that were arrested because of what they write.
The problem in the case of Turkey is the use of economic prosperity as an excuse for clampdown on freedoms. Erdogan did not hesitate to ask editors-in-chief to “discipline” their journalists and this actually happened with a Kurdish journalist whom the prime minister indirectly called a “traitor,” an accusation that drove the editor-in-chief to dismiss her.
It is now clear that Erdogan does not take kindly to criticism and this explains how the increased popularity of a social networking website like Twitter, which the Turkish people use as an alternative medium to voice their opinions.
In fact, Turkey now ranks 11th worldwide in the use of Twitter.
What is more surprising is the stance of the West that stands still while these violations take place, owing probably to its need for a strong ally in the Muslim world.
It is a shame that Turkey would come before countries like Iran, China, Eritrea, and Syria as far as clamping down on press freedom in concerned, a matter that the current leadership cannot take lightly.
*This article was first published in AlSharq AlAwsat on Jan. 3, 2013. Link: http://www.aawsat.com/leader.asp?section=3&issueno=12455&article=711522
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.