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15 January

Marching in Paris, stumbling at home

Turkish government’s actions belie fine words of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo

"Turkey's message to Europe is clear: we are European and Europe's problems are our problems." So said Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu on his return from Paris where he marched, step for step, with those protesting the brutal attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
As much as we applaud this gesture of solidarity we are forced to question the sincerity of Turkey’s leadership to join the ranks of the liberal democracy. Even in the last few days from his return, Turkish disregard for freedom of speech has reached astonishingly lower depths.
 
Just look at some of the things that have occurred in the last few days:
 
- A Turkish court gives a ruling forbidding access to internet sites publishing the cover of Charlie Hebdo (a tearful Mohammed announcing “Je suis Charlie”).
- Turkey’s TV watchdog has fined six private broadcasters for breaching a gag order on the parliamentary graft inquiry commission’s process by “reading out newspaper articles.”
- The prime minister attempted to exclude a journalist from a Berlin press conference because he corresponds for Zaman newspaper which the government accuses of orchestrating a coup d’etat.
- Police patrol the distribution of Cumhuriyet newspaper to prevent a Turkish language facsimile of Charlie Hebdo from reaching the stands.
- Telecommunication authorities threaten to prevent internet access to Twitter and Facebook in order to prevent the circulation of evidence that Turkish intelligence supplied war material for Al Qaeda in Syria.
- Mehveş Evin, a columnist for Milliyet newspaper whose proprietor supports the government is unable to publish in her own newspaper, Milliyet.
- The president has a press conference at an Istanbul palace but only editors and editorialists totally loyal to his party line are allowed to attend; all critical voices and even some of the mainstream media are excluded.
- A collective of pro-government NGOs take out a full page add warning an anti-government columnist, Ertuğrul Özkök, to keep his mouth shut.
- A court sentences an academic, Elifhan Köse, to nearly 12 months in jail for shouting slogans at a rally critical of the then prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan, which it ruled were slander. The rally was in protest against the killing of a young boy, concussed with a tear gas canister, in the periphery of the 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations.
- On the day the Dutch foreign minister attends an official dinner in Ankara, the Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink, based in Diyarbakir is detained by the police for questioning on grounds that her Tweets were terrorist propaganda. Another Dutch journalist was also briefly detained.
- Senior journalists critical of the government entitled to permanent press cards, are refused this official accreditation.
- Sedef Kabas, a former television presenter is taken in for questioning, her computer, phone and son’s ipad seized, after posting a tweet suggesting a cover-up in a government corruption scandal.
 
“Turkish and Muslim people living in Europe should not feel isolated or abandoned as Turkey will continue to protect and support them,” Davutoglu said after leaving Paris for Berlin. This begs the question: who will protect the Turks of Turkey from the erosion of fundamental rights.


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