Since the very beginning of the Arab uprisings, over and over again we've been hearing politicians, commentators -- almost everyone with an opinion -- express the ardent hope that new Arab governments will emulate "the Turkish model," a supposed moderate Islamic democracy. Well, think again. Lift the covers off this mythical wonderland, and you'll find a cesspool, a government showing utter contempt for its own people by jailing scores of reporters, blocking thousands of websites, severely punishing anyone who dares utter a word of criticism.
Aren't those the very same proclivities that drove so many angry Arabs into the street?
Guess which nation has jailed more reporters than any other.
The nation's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, defends his treatment of the news media, averring last month that all those reporters are in trouble because of their "subversive activities." None of them, he added "are being detained because of their activities as a journalist." That's utter nonsense.
Erdogan was referring indirectly to the so-called Ergenekon plot, a chimerical scheme to cause chaos that is intended to prompt the military to take control and install a fully secular government again.
In 2007, authorities found 27 hand grenades in the attic of an
I am hardly the only one who views this as a weak pretext for eliminating freedom of the press and the right to free expression. National security "should not be used as a ground to curb media freedom," said
I've worked in dozens of authoritarian states that have little tolerance for the news media. But I have never before seen such a pervasive, indiscriminate assault on the media. "More than 2,000 journalists are being prosecuted, and investigations have been launched against 4,000 journalists," the Turkish Policy Center in
The problem has grown so serious that, in April, Reporters Without Borders staged a conference in
You expect this sort of behavior from elected government leaders who are not planning to leave office when their time is up. But Erdogan might have another motivation, too. Modern
To that end, the government also blocks thousands of websites it considers insulting, offensive or otherwise uncomplimentary to itself.
Most people around the world know nothing of this, and the nation's leaders count on that. President
"Just being us," he boasted, "we serve as a catalyst for reform."
Weeks earlier, a court sentenced Turkish journalist Cem Buyukcakir to an 11-month jail term, suspended -- for "insulting President Gul."
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