Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand writes against worsening condition of freedom of expression in Turkey

During his speech for the 25th anniversary of the daily newspaper Zaman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrated the constitutional freedom that has become established in the past 9 years of his government. He praised the freedom of expression in Turkey while claiming that the journalists currently under arrest were being held for having committed ordinary crimes such as coup mongering, sexual harassment, and killing police officers. The hall was filled with hundreds of people celebrating this new regime of freedom in Turkey. Perhaps touched by this scene of tacit and silent consensus in the current upper echelons of Turkish society, journalist Mehmet Ali Birand saved his reactions for his column in the mainstream daily Hurriyet. There Birand accuses all power holders in Turkey of lying if they claim that freedom of speech exists in Turkey. In his own words:

“All of you applaud only those journalists who celebrate your opinions, not those who criticize you. All of you hate criticism. Government, military, Kurds, Sunnis, businessmen, members of judiciary, all of you; if you can find a way, you are fond of bashing journalist.     


I can’t stand this hypocrisy anymore.

So far I strived hard to keep my good manners, but it is enough.   

All of you are lying. 

I am referring to you, power holders, politicians, business circles, military people, Kurds, Sunnis and judiciary members and judges. You approve only those journalist who serve to your purpose. You hate criticism. You praise only those who safeguard your interests, whip those who are against it. And then you buzz the existence of freedom of speech in this country. 

This hypocritical  order provokes me and others like me to rise up.

The most obvious example is the Oda TV trial. All the press trials in courts are disgraceful. 

Almost a hundred journalists are in prison. Isn’t it a shame for all of us? We are criticized everywhere in the world. But nobody voices the discontent, nobody cares. The government makes claims of law reform, but the results are only very few cowardly improvements.  
What about judiciary?  In the name of “rule of law” they are willfully reckless towards the jailed journalists.
 What a cowardice!  What kind of a democracy do we have?

Besides all this, there are those who claim that the journalist are related to ‘terrorists,’ meaning they are not journalists. Worst, there is a huge number of those who support this opinion among our own colleagues.  

No gentlemen. You cannot claim that only if a person is not involved in a violent terror activity, does not support terror or provoke terror in her/his writings, he or she is a journalist. And even if he or she is a member of a terrorist organization, you cannot convict them only based on their writings and opinions. You cannot punish individuals if they promote PKK policies, or struggle for independent Kurdistan.

If you are able to do this, then we will begin to talk about a real democracy and freedom of expression in Turkey. Until then don’t lie to us.”  

In the rest of his article Birand engages in a self-reflexive critique of journalism in Turkey. To access the full article in Turkish please visit: