A Note of Despair on Turkey

As I write this note, the news that the Turkish courts have basically took control of yet another Turkish newspaper critical of the AKP government continue to spread across the world.

The steps to close Today's Zaman is just the latest step taken by AKP government to curb the power and reach of Gulen movement. Yet, it is also the latest step in the truly worrying decline of freedom of media in the country. Form shutting down access to social media to taking thousands of people to courts on accusations of insulting the President, the government has long crossed any defendable limitation that can be brought against freedom of speech under international law. 

The outcome is not good for Turkey. Yes, its media is often more political than factual, more biased and partisan than fair and objective. But without a full spectrum of those voices Turkey cannot leap forward. AKP officials themselves should remember how the same state aggression for decades ultimately did not work, and the old rules are now hardly remembered. Thus, this is also not good for AKP.  The frantic effort to secure its control by such means will eventually backfire and it is making AKP more and more vulnerable for a sudden loss of votes and loss of government.  

This is not merely a human rights issue anymore. Gross failures of the government in upholding international standards, blurring the lines between executive and legal branch, governing through a chaotic power structures beyond constitutionally defined roles are causing Turkey serious long term damage. This is exactly the moment Turkey needs a new foreign policy, a new momentum to advance its economy and domestic stability. Yet, neither its government, nor opposition parties to that matter, seem to be able to lift their heads and realise the wild forest fire raging around Turkey.  

Turkey desperately needs positive, constructive and creative voices. Such voices can only emerge if there is a free public space. At the moment, some of the brightest minds in the country are choosing to remain quiet, so as not to be a victim of government pressure, or lynching by pro and anti government angry, zero sum partisan voices that are dominating the conversations.