“The press in Turkey is headed into the darkest episodes of its history”
In Boulevard Voltaire, March 28, 2016
Translated from French by Tom Winter, March 29, 2016
It’s no good being a journalist in today’s Turkey. Two of our colleagues are on closed-door trial in an Istanbul criminal court as a consequence of an article accusing Ankara of delivering weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria.** The chief charges laid against them are pure delirium: Espionnage, revealing state secrets, attempted coup d’etat and aiding a terrorist organization. The two have already spent 90 days in pre-trial detention. The prosecutor is seeking criminal confinement for life.
Their trial has been remanded to next week and will take place behind closed doors for “reasons of national security” but actually to prevent European diplomats and defenders of human rights being present there.
The balance sheet is damning: ranked 149th out of 180 in the press freedom ratings of Reporters sans frontières, the Turk regime systematically tries to muzzle media and journalists who are less than favorable to it, under the cover of “terrorist propaganda.” According to Hakan Yılmaz, professor of Political Science at Istanbul, cited by AFP, given the systematic take-over of the opposition press in these last few weeks, “about 90% of media coverage is directly in the hands of Erdogan.”
All this doesn’t seem to disturb the EU, into which Turkey remains more than ever a candidate. Yes, the “High Representative for EU foreign policy, the illustrious unknown Federica Mogherinia blandly notes that “each candidate country must guarantee fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).” Certainly, on the eve of the recent summit with Turkey, the European Union had put forth a vague conscience-soothing statement: “The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, must respect and promote high democratic standards and practices, including media freedom. “And blah-blah-blah …
But no major leader has seen fit to denounce for the record what is happening on the banks of the Bosphorus, where the Turkish press is going through one of the darkest episodes in its history. Europe, once again, lies down for Erdoğan: the end of the visas that the European Union demands of the Turks for stays of less than 90 days is officially still valid, and remains scheduled for late June.
** The newest evidence supporting these reporters is found in documents captured in Syria.