Journalists are the “watchdogs” of democracy, according to the European Court of Human Rights. Anyone who wants to control a country without being troubled by criticism tries to muzzle reporters, and unfortunately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a past master at stifling the cries of freedom. As journalists from around the world converge on Antalya to cover this weekend’s Group of 20 summit, many of their Turkish colleagues are being denied accreditation.
Sidelining opposition media has become a bad habit in Turkey, which is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. Four days before the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections, the police stormed Ipek Media Group headquarters and shut down its two opposition dailies and two opposition TV stations. After control of management had been secured and 71 journalists fired, these outlets resumed operations with a new editorial line verging on caricature. The dailies, Bugun and Millet, ran Erdogan’s photo on the front page along with the headlines “The president among the people” and “Turkey united.”
Journalism is being murdered. The fact that the AKP, the ruling party for the past 13 years, recovered an absolute majority in parliament has not sufficed to halt the oppression. Two days after the elections, two journalists were jailed on charges of “inciting an armed revolt against the state” in a story. Since then, some 30 other journalists have been placed under investigation for “terrorist propaganda” or “insulting the president” — the two most common charges.