Kinzer on Turkey’s media crackdown, ‘This story is not over’

Former New York Times Istanbul Bureau Chief Stephen Kinzer has struck an optimistic note on the struggle of Turkish journalists and activists to uphold free speech in Turkey, saying that the ongoing dire situation is not permanent.
andquotThis story is not over,andquot Kinzer said at a symposium in Boston College on Saturday, although the countryand’s press is going through andquotbad timesandquot these days. He said Turkish journalists are working against all odds.
Kinzer was speaking at a conference on press freedom, where he said because of the vibrancy of Turkish society the struggle for press freedom is not dead. He said there had been a definite regression in press freedom in the country, but that it is not permanent.
According to Kinzer, press freedom is an outcome of the broader development of freedom in a country and is closely intertwined with freedoms in other areas. He mentioned he keeps a sign in his room that he brandished during a media freedom march in Istanbul in 2010, which reads andquotSustum, sira bana geldiandquot — I kept silent and Iand’m next. The sign criticizes media workers who kept silent when there was an ongoing crackdown on other rival media groups.
When asked why the US has had a muted reaction to Turkeyand’s press freedom violations, Kinzer said geopolitical concerns play a big role in Washingtonand’s decision in this respect. He said he is aware of a debate within the US State Department where some diplomats are clamoring for a stronger US position on press freedom. He said that others claim that it is more important for the US to maintain relations with the Turkish government because of the ongoing refugee crisis and turmoil in the region than to raise concerns over press freedom.
Not a world I dreamed of
In an emotional appeal at a symposium, Hasan Cemal, a veteran Turkish journalist, said the country he is living in is not the one he dreamed of.
He said he is 71 years old and has been an active journalist for 47 years. andquotI have witnessed military coups. I have seen my newspaper being shut down several times. I have lost friends to political murders. Many of my colleagues spent time in prison, many were subject to torture,andquot Cemal said.
But the heartache he felt last month was like andquotnone I had felt before.andquot
andquotI witnessed a television station (Bugandun TV) and two dailies (Bugandun and Millet) raided by order of the state.andquot
Just days before the Nov. 1 election, ipek Media Group was raided by police and the authorities took over five media outlets.
andquotOn that day, the legal system was razed to the ground. Freedom was desecrated. Media independence was held in complete disdain. The right to property was hijacked,andquot Cemal said. He said they wanted to silence journalists and cast a shadow over their world.
andquotI do not want to live in a world where newspapers and television stations are so shamelessly terrorized by state pressure I do not want to live in a world subservient to despotism,andquot Cemal said, adding that there is no place for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or more accurately, for the sultan in the palace.
The veteran journalist describes Erdogan as andquota tyrantandquot who is in love with his own voice and silences the voices of opposition and criticism andquotin a planned and systematic way.andquot

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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