Speaking about the three prominent Turkish journalists who were sentenced to a lifetime in prison in the Turkish courts last week, Ahval News' editor, Ilhan Tanır says that the public and the readers should be the ones punishing a journalist, not the political authorities.
Speaking about Ahmet Altan, now defunct Taraf newspaper's editor-in-chief, Tanır said “Altan got in trouble not because he made some mistakes as Taraf’s editor-in-chief years ago, but due to his brave criticism of the Erdogan government after 2013, becoming one of the strongest critical voices against the Erdogan government… His troubles started here,” to Al-Ahram Weekly in an interview.
Since the failed coup attempt of 2016, the Turkish government's crackdown on the Turkish media gradually started impacting everyday life of Turkish citizens. Many Turkish language publications were shut down and according to reports, there are over 150 journalists behind bars in Turkey. The sentencing of Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan and a prominent T.V. commentator Nazlı Ilıcak, last week for lifetime imprisonment, received condemnations from many international organisations, including Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations (UN).
Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Europe and Central Asia Division, said; "The verdict was a dark moment for the rule of law and media freedom in Turkey. The case against them and the other defendants was politically motivated from the very start,” maintaining that his organisation will keep working with the Turkish authorities on media freedom and human rights issues.
Tanır says such statements and condemnations from international human rights and press freedom organisations makes very little difference nowadays due to collapse of check and balances within Turkey. Speaking about the Turkish police arresting social media users who are opposing the “Operation Olive Branch,” name of Turkish military incursion into Syria, “That’s pretty devastating,” Tanır said “Obviously, this makes it impossible for the public in Turkey to discuss the advantages or disadvantages of the operation."
"When you oppress people, the critical voices that help the government to make healthy decisions, it leads to limited discussions and narrow-minded decisions,” Tanır said.
Erdogan, like the Ottomans of the past, remains free of sanction as world governments remain silent.
“Every Western or Eastern country has its own national interests. Erdogan also, just like Russian President Putin, knows very well how to play Western countries against each other, and how to punish or award them according to their ‘behaviour’ by inviting them to some of the largest projects in Turkey or giving them big arms orders. Erdogan has been ruling Turkey for 15 years. He gained experience nobody has. Turkey is also on very valuable territory, and for many countries it’s hard for them to stay away from it. For Westerners to be more influential in the region, they want to be friends with Erdogan. Yet despite that Turkey is, perhaps, sitting on the most valuable real estate in the world, it is still much more isolated than many countries due to Erdogan’s policies,” Tanir told the Weekly.