The end of free media in Turkey

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Newspaper Stand. photo by: Yukiko Matsuoka

Media and democracy in Turkey have been under attack, getting the country further from basic human rights and Europe. For years, journalists have been suspended for protesting against the government. A European Commission report on Turkey’s progress toward European Union membership cites “problems with press freedoms and independence of the judiciary,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said on Sunday.

Last week, the Turkish government announced plans to reintroduce the death penalty in the country,  a threat that was constantly made by dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent years. After that, the editor-in-chief and columnists of Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest newspaper and known for its critical stance towards the government, were arrested. On Thursday night, Selahattin Demirtas, the charismatic leader of the country’s pro-Kurdish party HDP, and Figen Yuksekdag, the co-leader of the party were arrested together with other ten Kurdish deputies.

The freedom and plurality of the media are increasingly under threat in many parts of Europe, but in the case of Turkey, the speed in which the government is undermining fundamental freedoms and dismantling democratic institutions has taken Turkish people by surprise, giving them no choice but to shut up. Many Turkish journalists have been arrested and lots of media outlets have been shut down since the failed July 15 coup. More than 110000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended without possibility to access justice  and shutting down any legitimate opposition. On Monday, hundreds of people gathered outside the newspaper’s Istanbul headquarters to protest against the detentions of journalists.

Democracy requires the active participation of citizens. Media play a crucial role in our democracies, keeping  citizens informed and engaged to take action and shape a critical view of the world and politics. Media, as guardian of the public interest, needs to be defended. 

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