ISN’T President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — with full respect to him — debasing himself by being a complainant in a case that involves one of democracy’s fundamental principles: media freedom? On Friday, a Turkish court ordered that two of Turkey’s leading journalists, Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of daily Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, its Ankara bureau chief, be tried in camera and agreed to have the president as a complainant. The two have been accused of espionage because they published a report that said Turkish intelligence agencies were sending arms to Syria under cover of humanitarian aid, though the government says the trucks were carrying relief goods for ethnic Turkmen. According to President Erdogan, the report was part of an attempt to undermine the country’s international standing. The court accepted the prosecutors’ plea that evidence to be produced in court involved state secrets.

There is no denying President Erdogan’s popularity. The fact that the November re-election gave his Justice and Development Party (AKP) an absolute majority in parliament testifies to a popular approval of his economic policies, which have given the Turks a higher standard of living and made Turkey the world’s 15th largest economy. These assets should help the president develop greater confidence in his ability to stand dissent. Instead, his policies over the years have been characterised by strong authoritarian tendencies, with the media and judiciary coming under intense state pressure. Earlier this month, the state took over Zaman, its sister publication Today’s Zaman and news agency Cihan. Seen in the light of the crackdown on Cumhuriyet the world wouldn’t be wrong if it considered the AKP regime as waging war on Turkey’s vibrant media. There is no doubt Turkey needs political stability more than ever before, especially because of the Syrian civil war and a spate of terror attacks in Istanbul and Ankara. But political stability is not incompatible with freedom of expression. If the Cumhuriyet journalists have violated any laws, they must be given an open, fair trial.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2016

Opinion

Law & processions
16 Oct 2021

Law & processions

It is up to the police to impose reasonable conditions on a procession.
Is the party over?
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Is the party over?

Many in PTI are concerned how they can hang on till the next elections.
The last fortress
Updated 16 Oct 2021

The last fortress

The state wants to use the social media rules to trample on the right to freedom of speech.
Reopening under Covid
15 Oct 2021

Reopening under Covid

It will be a challenge to deal with all students returning to classrooms and maintaining SOPs.

Editorial

Diminishing freedom
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Diminishing freedom

DESPITE the serious reservations of digital rights activists and tech companies, the federal government has...
16 Oct 2021

Dirty politics

IN her outburst against Prime Minister Imran Khan this week, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz may not have taken names but...
16 Oct 2021

Decreasing emissions

THE announcement by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam that carbon emissions in the country came down by 9pc...
No need for NAB
Updated 15 Oct 2021

No need for NAB

THE National Accountability Bureau has sent instructions to its regional bureaus to stop processing cases that fall...
Forced conversions
Updated 15 Oct 2021

Forced conversions

THE majoritarian view has once again prevailed in the matter of bringing about legislation against forced conversion...
15 Oct 2021

Transgender rights

MEMBERS of the transgender community in the country are often at the receiving end of both their families’ and...