For many months now, the
government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down
on media as part of a wider move towards an increasingly
authoritarian regime under his ruling Justice and Development
Brutal, chaotic scenes at
the offices of Zaman newspaper
in Istanbul and its related publications this weekend prove beyond
doubt that Erdogan's regime has now openly embraced dictatorship.
This in a country which has a long history of military coups and
Recent years of seeming
parliamentary democracy are now shown to be a sham. Turkey is
reverting to the form of strong-arm despotism under Erdogan and his
flunkey prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
group which owns Zaman,
Feza Media, has been accused of "consorting with terrorists"
connected to Kurdish separatists. A Turkish court then ordered at the
end of last week that the newspaper be taken into administration
under editors appointed by the government.
charges are flagrantly trumped-up, of course. Zaman and its
English-language daily, Today's Zaman, are "guilty" of
nothing other than providing critical reports and analysis of
Erdogan's government, especially over its reprehensible role in
Syria's conflict since 2011.
terrorists" is the blanket charge that Erdogan is throwing at
other independent Turkish media. Dozens of journalists have been
arrested on similar charges. While other media outlets have been
likewise closed down by Erdogan's ruling party.
Dundar, the editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper,
is facing prosecution on "espionage" and "subversion"
charges — and a possible life sentence in jail — simply because
he published photographs last year that purported to show how Turkish
state intelligence (MIT) was running weapons across the Syrian border
— to supply illegally armed groups trying to overthrow the Damascus
A court ruling last month ordered that
Dundar be released pending his trial, however Erdogan and his
supporters said that they don't respect the court order. Yet another
disturbing example of corrosive lawlessness at the heart of the
This weekend witnessed perhaps the
most brazen crackdown on democratic freedoms by Erdogan, with the
full-scale invasion of riot police at the premises
of police forced their way into the offices with bolt-cutters after
battering peaceful protesters off the street. Water cannons and
teargas were fired into the media offices as journalists scrambled
for safety from baton-wielding officers.
Sevgi Akarcesme and colleagues were pushed down staircases as the
riot-clad police stormed the building.
constitution is finished," decried Akarcesme. "This is
despotism," she added.
Under Turkey's state
constitution, freedom of media is supposed to be guaranteed from
government interference. Clearly, Turkey can no longer pretend to be
a democratic state. The constitution has been sacked in the most
graphic way. It is now a dictatorship where those who criticize
the "ruler" are liable to receive prison sentences because
they are either "terrorist supporters" or "insulting"
The increasingly despotic nature of Turkey
under Erdogan is intimately bound up with his regime's criminal
aggression towards Syria. Over the past five years, Erdogan has moved
from covert sponsorship of terror proxies in Syria to a blatant role
in waging aggression.
Over the past week, since a
tentative Syrian ceasefire was implemented by the United States and
Russia, Turkish military forces have been firing artillery barrages
into its southern neighbor. This is an act of war on a sovereign
There are also reliable reports that Turkish
state forces have stepped up their supply of weapons and terrorist
insurgents through the few remaining border crossings, which have
been largely closed off by the Syrian army supported by Russia's air
power, as well as by Kurdish Syrian fighters.
regime is thus openly at
war with Syria and his desperate recklessness is directly
connected to the heavy losses that the Syrian army and Russia have
inflicted on his covert surrogate terror brigades. The latter include
the internationally recognized terror groups of Al Qaeda-linked
Islamic State/Daesh and the Nusra Front.
state criminality is hardly tenable in a country where an
independent, critical media supposedly operates. The courageous,
critical reporting in recent years by Turkish newspapers and
television outlets has exposed the violations committed by the
Erdogan regime in Syria's dirty war.
And that is why
Erdogan is now shuttering this media with an iron fist, under the
utterly fabricated but ironical charges of these outlets allegedly
Erdogan is getting
away with this brutal conduct largely because he is being indulged by
Washington, the European Union and the US-led NATO military alliance,
of which Turkey is a member.
institutions are all equally complicit in Turkey's state-sponsored
terrorism against Syria. So, as the Erdogan regime gags the Turkish
media, his Western allies are obliged to keep their mouths shut
On the latest newspaper seizure, the US State
Department issued a trite statement expressing
concern. "We see this as the latest in a series of troubling
judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government
targeting media outlets and others critical of it," said US
spokesman John Kirby.
One can only imagine how
different Washington's response would be if, say, similar events took
place in Moscow. There would be wall-to-wall Western media coverage
denouncing Vladimir Putin as a dictator.
hypocrisy and double-think reaches a crescendo as the
European Union leaders meet with Erdogan's officials in the coming
days over the refugee crisis.
President Donald Tusk only days ago praised Turkey as a partner in
stemming the flow of refugees into Greece, and the EU is planning to
grant Erdogan's regime $3.4 billion in taxpayers' money to help
accommodate more migrants on its territory.
can't get more absurd than that. EU leaders pander to Turkey after
the latter has played a leading role in destabilizing Syria and
triggering the refugee crisis. And when this same regime cracks down
on independent media exposing its criminal collusion with terrorism,
the EU says or does nothing of importance.
embracing fascist dictatorship; and Washington and its European
minions are smitten by the same embrace.
week, the French government censured Le Monde newspaper for reports
on France's "secret war" in Libya.
regime is marching all over democratic rights as Turkish media
succumbs to the jackboot of dictatorship. Not far behind and in
lockstep are Washington and the European Union. Their cynical silence
is their indictment.