Last week, Turkey’s NATO-backed, Washington-approved autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan took another step towards ensuring that the concept of a free press doesn’t exist in Turkey when Can Dundar, editor in chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gul, the newspaper’s capital correspondent were arrested on charges of spying and aiding a terrorist organization.
When you hear “aiding a terrorist organization”, you might think the men had, say, provided weapons to extremists or perhaps assisted in the smuggling of illegal oil from which the most prominent terrorist organization on the planet derives up to a billion dollar per year in revenue.
But no, that’s what the Turkish government does. As for the reporters, their crime was exposing the fact that Ankara was sending weapons to militants in Syria via trucks manned by Turkish intelligence agents. For those who missed it, here's the video proof:
Of course that was hardly the first time Erdogan has cracked down on the press. Back in September, in a move dubbed "unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre" by Amnesty International, Turkey arrested three Vice News journalists (two British citizens and an Iraqi) for allegedly "engaging in terror activity" on behalf of ISIS. That was just the latest example of Ankara using the NATO-backed ISIS offensive as an excuse to eradicate pro-Kurdish sentiment. According to The New York Times (and according to common sense) the reporters' only real "crime" was "covering the conflict between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish state."
And there are countless other examples.
Well, in the latest press casualty brought to you by America's despotic ally in Ankara, Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bulent Kenes, a journalist who has been at the helm of Turkey's best-selling English-language daily since it was launched in 2007, has resigned citing an ongoing legal battle with Erdogan. Here's the full post from TZ:
Kenes said on Thursday that he cannot perform his job as the editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman due to a series of criminal and civil lawsuits government officials have launched against him as part of the campaign of pressure on the independent media in Turkey. He has already been convicted in one defamation case and is facing many others that observers have said are nothing but intimidation and persecution of independent and critical journalists in Turkey.
He also said he wanted to spend more time with his family and pay more attention to his health.
“As the founding editor-in-chief of the Today's Zaman, I have sincerely tried to fulfill my job to the best of my ability, maintained the paper's integrity and tried to resist all kinds of pressure from the government as much as I could,” Kenes said. He wished success for his colleagues at the daily, which he said has been a leading brand name in telling Turkey's story abroad, and thanked the readers of the daily for their valuable support for him over the years.
Kene? was arrested by the ?stanbul 7th Criminal Court of Peace on Oct. 10 and remained behind bars until his release pending trial was ordered on Oct. 14. The charges against the journalist concern 14 tweets that allegedly insult President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has already been convicted of insulting the president in a Twitter post and was handed a suspended prison sentence of 21 months earlier this year. However, Kenes did not even mention the president's name in his tweet and this sentence has attracted worldwide condemnation.
Kenes is facing the prospect of up to eight years and two months in prison on charges of “insulting” Erdogan in a series of tweets and statements that he has said were simply the expression of a critical opinion. He has also been hit by dozens of other pending cases launched against him by Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other government officials.
So the takeaway from this travesty (well, other than to reiterate that the US should not be supporting this despot) is that you don't "insult Erodgan" on Twitter. Especially if you happen to live in Turkey. Although amusingly, you might be able to get away with comparing the President to Gollum (from Lord of the Rings) because as it turns out, Turkish judges aren't Tolkein fans and on that note, we close with the following from The Guardian:
The trial of a Turkish man accused of insulting the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by comparing him to Gollum has been adjourned so that a group of experts can study JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings character, Turkish media has reported.
Bilgin Ciftci was fired from his job at Turkey’s public health service in October after sharing images comparing Erdo?an’s facial expressions to those of Gollum.
According to a report in the daily newspaper Today’s Zaman, a court in Ayd?n has adjourned Ciftci’s trial as the chief judge had not seen the Lord of the Rings films. The court-appointed experts have reportedly been asked to determine whether the comparison is indeed an insult.