EMRE – A personal contribution to Freedom House’s press report

A personal contribution to Freedom House’s press reportThe “Freedom of the Press 2014” report stressed that the biggest decline in Europe took place in Turkey, and that the country has been moved from the Partly Free to Not Free category.“Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and expression are only partially upheld in practice, undermined by restrictive provisions in the criminal code and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Turkey remained the world’s leading jailer of journalists in 2013, with 40 behind bars as of December 1, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ],” said the report.“The press freedom climate deteriorated sharply during the year as journalists were harassed and assaulted while attempting to cover the Gezi Park protests in May, and dozens were fired or forced to resign in response to sympathetic coverage of the protesters’ demands,” it said. In its introduction, Freedom House shows how the Turkish government has placed pressure on the press. “Turkey’s government is improperly using its leverage over media to limit public debate about government actions and punish journalists and media owners who dispute government claims, deepening the country’s political and social polarization. … The media face tremendous pressure from the government, and the government now has widened its attacks to other institutions. The report catalogues the Turkish government’s actions to suppress freedom of speech, which have intensified since the emergence of a major corruption scandal in December 2013.” The report categorizes the major problems in the media as intimidation, mass firings, buying off or forcing out media moguls, wiretapping and imprisonment. I think the report makes an accurate assessment of the overall state of press freedom in Turkey. The most important part of the report is its acknowledgement that Turkey’s current crisis is bigger and more systemic and shows the government’s efforts to marginalize and suppress independent voices and reporting in Turkey’s media. As a contribution to the report, I would like to provide a list of the systematic attempts to suppress me. 1) Since I started criticizing the government back in 2011, I have faced a systematic smear campaign launched by government-affiliated media organizations. Just like the old Kemalist regime, the Recep Tayyip ErdoIan regime has also established so-called independent websites as a tool to smear all opposition. A few of these websites are medyagundem.com, medyasavar.com and haber10.com. Some days ago it was revealed that these websites are affiliated with Mustafa Yuce, who is editor-in-chief of takvim.com.tr, which is owned by the Kalyon Group and run by Prime Minister ErdoIan’s relatives. Once a smear campaign has prepared the ground for the labeling of an independent journalist or opposition member as a “devil,” then the government officials take the next steps. 2) Making phone calls and putting pressure on the media owners to fire journalists who do not support the government. There are many examples of journalists who have been fired as a result of political pressure, which Freedom House reports accurately by giving some examples of this category. But what if the government cannot put pressure on newspapers such as Taraf, Szcu or Cumhuriyet? In that case, as the report indicates, tax collectors are used as a mechanism to impose pressure. However, such methods are sometimes not enough to silence journalists. I myself am an example of this. Because the government could not put pressure on Taraf, they put the university where I was working under pressure to either silence me or fire me from the university. I was fired back in September of 2013 because I didn’t accept the order to quit writing for Taraf. 3) Unfortunately, losing your academic job is not considered enough of a punishment. They file complaints against you. I am one example of this method of pressure. ErdoIan and his affiliated media owners and “journalists” filed many complaints against me, seeking a TL 200,000 ($100,000) fine, a ban on me traveling abroad and imprisonment. 4) Even that is not considered enough punishment. In his victory speech, he addressed me as one of his enemies and told his followers to harass me. Since that victory speech I have faced a continuous campaign of harassment on the social media, even receiving direct threats from his followers. 5) I have received threats from terrorist organizations that I deeply suspect of being affiliated with the Turkish intelligence apparatus. 6) There is a deliberate campaign by paid Justice and Development Party (AKP) trolls on Twitter, who say that I am a traitor who has sold Turkey out. 7) I also filed a few complaints about these threats and smear campaigns run by pro-government websites and social media accounts. Despite the obvious threats and smear campaigns, prosecutors will not accept my complaints, while ErdoIan and his supporters’ complaints are accepted and turned into indictments against me. 8) I don’t think I need to mention that they wiretap all my phone conversations and email communications, and I am physically monitored and harassed by the intelligence apparatus.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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