Like most of the world, we have watched the rapid decline of civil liberties in Turkey after the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coalition of Islamic parties. Just last month, we discussed the arrest of Mehmet Emin Altunses, 16, who allegedly committed the crime of “insulting” Erdoğan. calling people who use birth control “traitors” and saying Muslims discovered America, you are not allowed to be disrespectful or insulting in discussing Erdoğan. The situation is even more dire for journalists who have found themselves threatened or arrested for reporting on Erdogan or his cronies. Now, Turkish police have arrested Dutch reporter Frederike Geerdink on terrorism charges. Erdoğan responded with one of his signature delusional statements, saying that this is just one more “false” report from Western media since it is about terrorism not journalism. It is his statement about the record of Turkey on press freedoms that truly takes Erdoğan’s menacing comments into the realm of madness.
Geerdink has raised the ire of the Turkish military by writing about civilian deaths from military bombing runs in Kurdish areas. She is based in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir tweeted that police had searched her home and were taking her into custody on charges related to “propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
When confronted on the latest attack on the media, Erdoğan struck back and insisted that this is yet another “attempt to tarnish Turkey by using press freedom when it is in fact measures taken against terrorism. I dispute this. Nowhere in Europe or in other countries is there a media that is as free as the press in Turkey.”
As free as anywhere in the world? Once can discount Erdoğan’s rewriting of history to insert Muslims at critical discoveries, but even authoritarian figures usually try to maintain remotely plausible claims.
Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in press-freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index. That puts Turkey with such countries as Gambia and Swaziland.