The European Parliament approved a resolution on freedom of expression in Turkey on Jan. 15, with most of the 593 members of the parliament voting for the measure’s adoption.
Out of the 593 MEPs, 511 of them approved the resolution titled “Freedom of expression in Turkey: Recent arrests of journalists, media executives and systematic pressure against media,” 11 voted against, while 31 MEPS abstained. The resolution condemns the recent police raids and the detention of a number of journalists and media representatives on Dec. 14, 2014 in Turkey, stressing that “these actions call into question the respect for the rule of law and freedom of the media.”
With two weeks to go before a crucial parliamentary election in Turkey, tensions are rising and some critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fear a new crackdown is starting to ensure that his Justice and Development Party wins. That kind of brute manipulation of the political process would be a serious mistake, further weakening the country’s battered democracy and tainting whatever victory might emerge.
The Turkish government is reportedly bracing to seize a number of media outlets ahead of key parliamentary elections slated for June 7, a move that will largely finalize the authorities' long-sought goal to completely silence the critical media and will eclipse the last remaining outspoken voice in the Turkish media.
Last week, a Turkish prosecutor demanded banning Samanyolu and Bugun TVchannels, two leading critical media outlets, as part of a campaign to muzzle the dissenting views in the media. Speculations are also abound that the government seeks to take over Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies, the country's best-selling Turkish and English-language newspapers.
On Sunday, June 7, 2015, Turkish citizens are headed to the polls once again. These will be nationwide general elections for 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament. The major issues that have permeated the electoral climate are a potential switch to presidentialism, trampled rights and freedoms, economic stagnation, and the Kurdish question. The prospects for free and fair elections are also frequently contested, given irregularities in the elections of 2014 and increasingly restricted media. In August 2014, then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the first direct presidential elections with 51.8% of the popular vote.
When I first appeared in court after last month’s raid on my newspaper in Istanbul and 80 hours of detention, I asked the judge: “Two columns and a news report: Is that all the evidence against me?” The judge replied, “Yes.” It surely was an “I rest my case” moment for me — as well as for the dismal state of Turkish democracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s leader for almost 12 years, Erdogan contributed to economic successes and democratic reforms during his first and second terms. However, emboldened by consecutive election victories and incompetent opposition parties, he is now leading Turkey toward one-man, one-party rule.
The two critical turning points came in 2013: his government’s harsh treatment of protesters in Gezi Park and the systematic obstruction of justice after a major corruption scandal. Since then, Erdogan has branded dissenters and critics as traitors who are part of a vast international conspiracy to topple him. Just last week, a 16-year-old was arrested for pointing out corruption. On Tuesday, two journalists critical of the government, Sedef Kabas and Mehmet Baransu, were detained over tweets. My newspaper, Zaman, and I are just the latest victims of Erdogan’s witch hunt.