Monday, 7 March 2016

The Death of Democracy in Turkey

The death of free press in Turkey: Today's Zaman censored

If you go to Daily Zaman's webpage you can still access the Front Page.Certain articles are still available but others are not and there is a message that the Server is down which indicates to me that the newspaper has been taken over by government administration and is being censored.

The following appears to be the only indication of the reality. No reference, for example to  this in Hurriyet.

This is from another Turkish newspaper. There is no link to an article in English.

Deported Danish reporter: Turkey deserves its low spot on Press Freedom Index

Deported Danish reporter: Turkey deserves its low spot on Press Freedom Index
Claus Blok Thomsen from the Danish Politiken daily says he was shocked by the deportation, expressing his frustration over the mistreatment he received. (Photo: Sunday's Zaman)

After seeing how it mistreats journalists, Turkey deserves its low spot place on thePress Freedom IndexClaus Blok Thomsen, a Danish reporter who was deported on Feb. 10 for posing a threat to Turkey's national security, has said.

Todays Zaman,
5 February, 2016

After arriving from Copenhagen on his way to the southeastern province of Gaziantep where he was planning to report about Syrian refugees, the journalist was detained by the police at İstanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport on Feb. 9 and placed in a cell where he was made to stay the night.

The police officers asked me to hand over my phone and computer after switching them on. Although I declared I am just a journalist coming here to report, they did not listen to me,” the journalist told the Aksiyon weekly on Feb 28.

The reporter, who has been working for the Danish Politiken daily for 19 years, said he was shocked by the deportation, expressing his frustration over the mistreatment he received.

After one day of detention in a cell, Thomsen was told by the police he had to be deported as he posed a threat to national security. “It was really humiliating to be escorted by the police [at the airport] and have everyone look at me. I was really offended because I was treated like a criminal,” Thomsen said.

When asked if he had written any articles criticizing the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) or President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Thomsen said his last piece on Turkey was five years ago. “[The article] was about al-Qaeda militants passing to Syria from North Africa, and I praised Turkey [in the report] for collaborating with the West to combat terrorism,” the reporter said.

The experienced journalist added that the police officers who detained and deported him were acting under orders possibly from a top official. “The police officers were not very polite while talking to me. They were looking down on me and not trying to help me at all.”

Stating he still has difficulties understanding how he could pose a threat to Turkey, Thomsen said: “I have been a journalist for 19 years. I have also written articles criticizing the Danish government, but have never been treated in such a manner. I have come to believe Turkey deserves its spot on the Press Freedom Index after having seen how it mistreats journalists.”

The world's largest press advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries surveyed in its 2015 Press Freedom Index, recommending the release of arrested journalists while highlighting the country's rapid decline in freedom of information.

Turkey's ‘underlying situation' score -- covering such areas as cyber-censorship, lawsuits, dismissals of critical journalists and gag orders -- actually worsened, showing that freedom of information continues to decline. Rocked by major corruption allegations, the government has done everything possible to rein in the influence of its new Public Enemy No. 1, the Gülen Movement, to the increasing detriment of the rule of law,” stated the group.

In 2002, when the ruling the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power, Turkey was ranked 99th out of 134 countries surveyed. The following year it fell to 115, but the number of surveyed countries rose to 158. As Ankara began accession negotiations with the European Union, its press freedom score improved and it placed in 98th spot out of 161 countries two years in a row -- 2005-6. The country's ranking remained almost the same until 2009, when the country dropped to 122nd place out of 170 countries. The next year Turkey was ranked 138th, and was then fixed at 154th place for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Freedom House, a leading watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, said in a recent report Turkey continues to decline in the areas of political rights and civil liberties, with renewed violence and an intensified crackdown on critics and the media ongoing.

Turkey is among 72 countries around the world that have seen a net decline in freedoms and rights, in the form of intense harassment of those opposed to the government as well as media outlets, Freedom House said on Jan. 27.

"Turkey received a downward trend arrow due to renewed violence between the government and Kurdish militants, terrorist attacks by the Islamic State [in Iraq and the Levant or ISIL] group, and intense harassment of opposition members and media outlets by the government and its supporters ahead of November parliamentary elections," the report said in reference to 2015.

Today's Zaman reporter Mahir Zeynalov, an Azerbaijani national, was deported in 2014 by the Turkish government for anti-government tweets that, in a criminal complaint filed by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, were termed “defamation and inciting public hatred.” He was deported under Law No. 5683, which allows foreigners who are deemed to be a security threat to be forced to leave the country. Zeynalov previously had a criminal complaint filed against him for several tweets he had posted pertaining to a major corruption scandal which went public on Dec. 17, 2013.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine photojournalist Andy Spyra was also barred from entering Turkey and deported on suspicion of being jihadist in April 2015. 
According to an article published on the news portal, citing Der Spiegel's report over the incident, Spyra was sent back to Germany after being held at İstanbul Atatürk Airport's detention center for a night

Erdoğan’s top court remarks point to coup d’état: CHP head

AA Photo
6 March, 2016

Critical remarks made by Turkey’s president on a top court ruling that led to the release of two journalists who spent months under arrest over a news report alleging state-owned trucks carrying weapons to Syria show that steps are being taken for a coup d’état, the country’s main opposition leader has said.

If someone who was elected by [laws defined in] the constitution says ‘I do not recognize the constitution,’ that means moves are underway for a coup d’état,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refusal to obey a ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court that provided legal ground for the release of daily Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül.

Speaking at a meeting he held with representatives of several civic organizations in Ankara on March 5, Kılıçdaroğlu said small and medium business owners, tradesmen and business organizations were keeping silent about the economy’s current slump due to fear of Turkish authorities, what he called a “violation” of the principle of separation of powers.

If someone walks up and says ‘legislation and jurisdiction [functions of the state] are drags for me,’ then he violates the principle of separation of powers,” the main opposition leader said.

Do you see what pressures business owners and tradesmen are under? Nobody can speak out because of fear. Why couldn’t trade and industry chambers say, ‘the economy is slumping?’” he added, stressing the silent stance of small and medium business owners came from the lack of an environment of democracy and liberty.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks came days after Erdoğan’s remarks sparked debate and physical confrontation between parliamentary members from opposition parties and those from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) late Feb. 28.

Erdoğan said he would not accept nor respect the ruling was issued by the Constitutional Court late Feb. 25, hours after the ruling, while vowing not to abide by the ruling, “This incident has nothing to do with freedom of expression, it is a case of spying,” Erdoğan said on Feb. 28 after, speaking to reporters ahead of his official trip to Africa.

Dündar and Gül, who were arrested on Nov. 26, 2015, on terrorism charges, served in prison for more than 90 days under “pre-trial” arrest in a case filed after daily Cumhuriyet published a report in May 2015 that alleged state-owned trucks carried weapons to Syria. The trucks owned by the National Inteligence Agency (MİT), the state intelligence agency of the country, were stopped and searched by gendarmes in the southern Turkish province of Hatay in January 2014, the daily said in the report.

Via RT

'Turkish democracy is dead' - Zaman journo over media crackdown

The latest government takeover of the Zaman media outlet in Istanbul is "not a surprise at all,' a journalist who had been working in the country told RT, adding that "the press has never been free in Turkey.'

RT reporter teargassed during Periscope live from Zaman protest in Istanbul

This doesn't figure on th Guardian's Front Page (or the BBC)

1st edition of Turkish Zaman daily after govt takeover sees smiling Erdogan on front page

6 March, 2016

The editorial policy of Turkey’s best-selling Zaman newspaper, formerly critical of the government, has apparently gone through a change. The Sunday edition, under a newly appointed administration, now appears to support the official line.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be seen on the new Zaman daily’s front page, smiling in an article announcing a presidential reception on upcoming Women's Day (March 8). A costly governmental project of a new bridge to be built across Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait was also headlined, as well as reports on the funerals of "martyrs" killed in clashes with the Kurds.

Zaman, killed on Friday, wakes up on Sunday as a pro-government zombie

More articles supporting the government could be found in the Sunday edition of the paper that has an estimated circulation of 650,000, AFP reported. Containing just 12 pages, the paper is a slimmer version of its previous self, and the content is sparse, according to Reuters.

Front page of last free before it is seized by the government in Turkey

Protests that erupted following what was widely seen as the seizure of Zaman’s headquarters in Istanbul by the government were glossed over in the new edition, Reuters reported. On Saturday, police used tear gas, water cannon and fired rubber bullets to disperse hundreds-strong crowds of Zaman readers.

Police also raided Zaman's building, forcefully imposing a Turkish court order to put the media under administration. The newspaper's editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici was fired by the new trustees.

"The Sunday edition was not produced by Zaman's staff," one of the newspaper's journalists told AFP, adding, "internet has been cut off, we are unable to use our system."

"It’s impossible to continue to work at Zaman daily because the trustees who were assigned by the government will fire us a couple of days later. All of us will be fired from the newspaper. But if they don’t, of course we will resign, because it’s impossible to work with the government, we will not write what they want," Emre Soncan, a journalist from Today’s Zaman newspaper, an English version of Zaman daily, told RT on Saturday. 

Zaman newspaper is under police attack in Turkey.

Zaman's website has been offline, while Today's Zaman online services have not been updated since Saturday. Government affiliates have also taken control of and blocked access to the outlet's Cihan news agency, Today's Zaman earlier reported.

The Zaman newspaper’s former team has launched a new paper of their own, "Yarina Bakis" ("Look to Tomorrow"), local media reported, saying that journalists had decided to remain in line with their previous editorial policy. The new paper reported on the weekend protests in Istanbul.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denied any links between the government takeover of the paper and changes in its editorial policy, saying the seizure had nothing to do with the paper's criticism of the authorities.

"There are many media outlets in Turkey that criticize our government. None of them are subjected to legal procedures," Davutoglu told A Haber television on Sunday, as quoted by AFP. "What's in question here is not merely press activity, but rather an operation targeting a legitimate government that came to power with popular support," he added, referring to Zaman's affiliation with now US-based

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