Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Legacy of Military Coups and Freedom of Expression in Turkey

If one is to have a complete picture of the repressions on freedom of expression in modern Turkey one needs to look more closely at the legacy of the military coups the country has experienced, especially that of the 1980 coup, the spectre of which still continues to haunt Turkish citizens via the 1982 military constitution which is still in place. Although the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), through a referendum, changed 26 articles of that constitution and advertised the results as 'the triumph of civil democracy over the military rule', the changes have been nothing more than cosmetic as the main clauses restricting freedoms have still not been touched. On the contrary, by the enactment of the new Anti-Terrorism Law (TMK) in 2006 the government showed its willingness to embrace the legacy of militarism and 're-securitize' the country abridging all personal rights and liberties. As put aptly in a TESEV report on the amendments to the TMK, "the TMK signaled a significant reversal of the democratic advances and gains amassed in the previous period" and as such was nothing more than a continuation of the militarist-mind-set.

Highlighting this continuity, Pinar Kemerli, in her Al-Jazeera op-ed titled "Turkey's Civilian-Military Complex" draws our attention to the fact that "the restriction of the Turkish Armed Force's autonomy and the chance of further intervention in political life do not amount to a full-scale 'civilianisation' of Turkey's democracy". Moreover, "uncritically celebratory accounts of the civilian government's triumph over the military" not only "ignore the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the AKP government" they also "work to shift attention from the continuing crackdown on pro-Kurdish democratic activism in Turkey and detract from the escalation of the arbitrary detention of activists, journalists, publishers and academics critical of the government under the guise of 'fighting terrorism'".

Read the rest of the op-ed at Al-Jazeera