One of the most distressing things to watch in Turkey as the Islamic government tears down decades of secular traditions has been the destruction of the free press. Given the recent attack on the free press by the Obama Administration, Turkey is an example of how the media can be chilled into silence. As protests have raged in the streets of major cities in one of the most important movements in the country’s history, the story has been virtually blacked out in the Turkish media, which is fearful of insulting the government of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. With the collapse of the free press in Turkey, however, one man took an extraordinary and novel stand: the host of a popular Turkish game show. Ali Ihsan Varol, the star of the Bloomberg TV quiz show “Kelime Oyunu,” or “The Word Game,” arranged for questions that had answers reflecting the violence from “gas mask” to “Twitter” to “dictator.” In the crushing silence on Turkish television, the show has caused quite a stir and hopefully brought well-deserved shame to Turkish journalists.
For viewers, the show was an obvious protest against the self-censorship of the media and an effort to show Turks that something historic was happening in the streets. Erdogan has become increasing bellicose in dealing with the protesters and threatened to bring a million Islamic supporters into the streets.
Viewers turned to social media sites like Twitter to tell people about the show. Twitter and other social media have become the substitute for media coverage in Turkey.
Turkey, and particularly Istanbul, is one of my favorite places on Earth. It has been painful to watch Erdogan take the country down the road of sectarian religious politics. However, it has been the collapse of the free press that has been the greatest shock. This is largely self-censorship. Turkey should remind us of how essential the media is to guaranteeing liberty and why we cannot allow the Obama Administration to erode protections for journalists.
When the smoke clears, and hopefully Turks get back their country, there will be many who will ask journalists “where were you during the 2013 protests?” One man however can be an answer on his own show when people are asked who stood up at this historic moment: Ali Ihsan Varol.
Source: NY Times