Turkey coronavirus crackdown shows importance of free press

Turkey’s crackdown on criticism and dissent during the COVID-19 coronavirus shows the importance of the free press, said two analysts writing in the Jerusalem Post.

Süleyman Özeren, a research scholar at George Mason University, and Suat Çubukçu, a lecturer at American University, said that by downplaying and censoring the facts, some leaders had enabled the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Putting further pressure on the media, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Turkey has followed the footsteps of China and Iran in censoring information about the prevalence of the virus,” they said.

The analysts said Turkey had likely been covering up cases before the country’s first infection was confirmed on March 11, and said that journalists had been arrested over their reporting on the virus. 

“Overall, censoring the real figures on the coronavirus epidemic led the Turkish people into not taking the coronavirus threat seriously, which eventually led the virus to spread exponentially. Turkey has been experiencing one of the sharpest increases in coronavirus cases,” they said. 

“The ongoing dire circumstances once again reminded us of the importance of a free press and access to critical information.”