YAVUZ – ‘Not free’ at last

‘Not free’ at lastDepression is inevitable at such times. I feel sheer resentment at having to comment on the state of misery that has turned Istanbul, Ankara and other cities into war zones, just because some social groups insisted on using their right to assemble and demonstrate on May 1 in Taksim Square.Destruction and horror. Scared children screaming for their lives. The elderly, risking death as tear gas canister after canister is shot or dropped from the air, turning central districts into battlefields. So much anger on the street.Needless to say, the never-ending story of blocking Taksim Square off from peaceful demonstrations — such a waste of time, money and an immense quantity of other resources — will go down in history when the “Book of Global Follies” is updated at the top of the list. Meanwhile, the bitter fact is that Turkey is rapidly losing altitude as the map of freedom and rights that provides guidance is now in darkness.The issue with media freedom and independence will continue to top the agenda.If there is still a chance in the struggle for democracy, the media is the arena, and will remain so. Only when the last independent voice is silenced, will it be the end of the dream.The unfolding stories are more and more depressing.Recently two journalists — from different camps, yet both opposed to ErdoIan’s ways — Önder Aytaç and Bekir CoIkun, were sentenced to prison for “insulting the prime minister.” The texts, republished on the Internet, only show mockery, no more. The punishments have been postponed on the condition that the “offense” is not repeated. And so, we have two more journalists who were severely discouraged from expressing even ironic dissent.Or, consider what Murat Yetkin, editor-in-chief of the Hurriyet Daily News, has said about how Suleyman Aslan, ex-CEO of Halkbank and a suspect in the graft probe, managed to put him under investigation for what he reported.“I am accused of violating two articles of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), just because I reported that he had been taken into custody by police upon the prosecutors’ orders in the scope of the corruption probe: Article 285, about the confidentiality of judicial procedures [which carries a recommended one to three years in jail or a fine as a penalty] and Article 288, about trying to prevent a fair trial [which has a recommended sentence of a minimum 50 days in jail or a fine],” Yetkin said.A Soviet-style, pro-authority media is being formed and is aggressively working in the service of its master, and now Turkey has dropped, in a dramatic fashion, from the category of “Half Free” to “Not Free” on the Freedom House World Press Freedom Index 2014.“Triggers for country declines included governments’ overt attempts to control the news — whether through the physical harassment of journalists covering protest movements or other sensitive stories, restrictions on foreign reporters, or tightened constraints on online news outlets and social media — as well as the role of owners in shaping media content through directives on coverage or dismissals of outspoken journalists,” said Freedom House. This general statement applies, to the letter, to what has happened in Turkey.Up until now, five Turkish journalists have been recognized and awarded in an international context. Recently, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) declared Radikal daily reporter Ismail Saymaz and former Milliyet senior columnist Hasan Cemal as “press heroes,” for their bravery and professional resistance.Tomorrow, we will celebrate – though perhaps mourn is a better word — World Press Freedom Day, in this very gloomy environment. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), which I co-founded, will launch “Birand Lectures,” in the memory of a respected, renowned colleague, Mehmet Ali Birand, who passed away not long ago.P24, dedicated to promoting the cause of independent journalism and editorial freedom in Turkey chose to do this based on the motivation of his success widening the horizons of Turkey’s media by breaking stale taboos and helping an inward-looking country open its windows to the world.As part of our professional struggle for freedom, P24 will mark every May 3 with a Birand Lecture. The keynote speaker tomorrow will be author and journalist Ahmet Altan, who, until recently, was the editor-in-chief of the Taraf daily.Oppression may deepen, but there is something inherent in the media here: Its voices will not go quietly.And that is true, no matter what the stakes are, as history has show

SOURCE: Todays Zaman