The latest arrests of journalists in Turkey are more bad news for its democracy in general and its declining press freedom in particular. Readers of this blog will be familiar with my noting how most measures of freedom of expression in Turkey have receded going back quite a while, overwhelmingly a result of government crackdowns, fines, arrests, and threats.
Yet a rather striking aspect of Turkish media is the degree to which journalists seem to accept, or even excuse, the imprisonment and prosecution of their colleagues. And I don’t mean those from the slightly more putrid segments of the Turkish media market but the more liberal (albeit self-declared so) segments.
Take one example, which occurred in conjunction with the high-profile arrests of a group of Odatv journalists accused of being the “media arm” of Ergenekon, which at the time was alleged to be a secret terrorist network attempting to overthrow the government. The arrest of one of those journalists Ahmet Şık, became particularly controversial as he was just about to publish a critical book on the Gülen movement, and many of the key prosecutors of the trials are thought to be members of the Gülen movement. It didn’t help that, shortly after Şık’s arrest, a rather clumsy, if not comical, hunt started by the police to delete digital copies of the critical book. As with many of the other arrests in the trial, in many instances the suspects didn’t have much more in common than their criticism of the government and especially the Gülen movement.