Turkey’s media crackdown

Published July 30, 2016

AMONG those who have borne the brunt of the sweeping purge in Turkey after the failed coup attempt there is the media.

The crackdown has included the arrest of several journalists critical of the government and has seen the authorities shut down over 130 media outlets including 45 daily newspapers and 16 TV stations.

Nearly 50 arrest warrants were issued for former staffers of the Zaman newspaper on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, 42 arrest warrants were issued for journalists 16 of whom have been detained.

While President Erdogan’s actions herald a wider crackdown on political opponents given the struggle between the AKP and Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement is clear, the current media witch-hunt has only accelerated the purge against a press that has held up a mirror to Mr Erdogan on multiple occasions.

As he continues with his purge of journalists and others, it would do him good to recall that it was the people who firmly defended his democratic credentials on the night of the attempted coup.

More disturbing are reports of beatings, severe torture and rape of coup plotters in arbitrary detention as revealed by Amnesty International. True, the authorities must investigate the plotters but a crackdown far beyond its acceptable remit will further polarise Turkey.

Mr Erdogan must not backslide on human rights and infringe on the public’s right to information in any attempt to bring to book those guilty of trying to subvert democratic rule.

The imposition of a state of emergency, partial withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights, extension of detainees’ detention period and contemplating the reinstatement of the death penalty are not actions befitting a democracy.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Western allies must stop cushioning Mr Erdogan just because he hosts Syrian refugees and assists the West in the fight against the IS. Their message must be plain: compromising the rule of law, human rights protections and a vibrant civil society, including a free media, is intolerable and must be stopped.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2016

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