On Friday, a Turkish court order allowed the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman, to be raided and taken under government control. The government insists it is not for political reasons.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, elected in 2014 after being Prime Minister for over a decade, is behind the take over. Erdogan has taken an increasingly aggressive stance towards critics of his government. Threats and blackmail have been used to silence detractors, among whom are journalists, intellectuals and prominent business people.
Unfortunately, Europe and much of the West have remained strangely silent. Many governments who see Turkey as a key player in the refugee crisis are afraid to comment. Prominent Turkish journalists have fiercely denounced the passive approach of foreign governments, including well known journalist Asli Aydintasbas. She stated “This pattern is appalling, and Turkey is galloping towards an authoritarian regime full speed ahead. Unfortunately, the world, in particular the E.U., remains silent. The government here can sense the vulnerability in the West, especially since the beginning of the refugee crisis, and is pushing the boundaries to consolidate its power.”
Turkey is quickly losing all freedom of the press, as the new editions of the newspaper have become propaganda. Any sharp criticism of the government mysteriously disappeared overnight. When freedom of the press is stifled, it’s a dangerous sign that other rights are being trampled. The situation is a deeply troubling example of repression, and unfortunately, it’s part of an increasingly long list of controlling moves by the Turkish government.
How should the world react to this takeover? A few years ago Turkey banned Twitter (and later, Youtube). Twitter began a campaign reminding people that they can text to tweet, actively defying the government. What do you think could be done in this situation? Be sure to leave your thoughts below.
Head over to The New York Times to read the full story.
Photo from Newsweek.