Once upon a time, Turkey was the beacon of hope for the Islamic states. It was characterized by a democratic, progressive nation that embraced secularism while never once forsaking its ethnic roots. All of these ideals were instilled by Turkey’s “founding father”, Kemal Ataturk, an intellectual forged in the tradition of the enlightenment, who established what is arguably the first Middle Eastern republic. Today, over 100 years later, what remains of that beacon is a flickering, dim light that is in danger of being put off indefinitely by the hands of backward thinking men. All of this ruin began first by the suppression of free speech.
According to Freedom House, a media development non-profit organization, in 2013 less than 15% of the world’s population had the luxury of enjoying a free press, which is the lowest percentage recorded since the mid-90s. Turkey’s press is among those considered “not free”, which puts it in the same category as states like North Korea and Eritrea, places that would make George Orwell’s 1984 look like a mildly gloomy fairy tale. Although, the trouble here is not so much the numbers as the regions themselves – a former local leader in human rights is now regressing into third world status. What’s ironic is that on the record, well over half of the African countries are counted as being significantly more open than almost all of Asia.
Turkey is currently seeing its journalists imprisoned and its media outlets bought off by government-tied goons, something unthinkable just a mere decade ago. However, Erdogan doesn’t mean to stop there. His recent attempts to block access to Twitter and YouTube are just one of many skirmishes on the integrity of free speech.
The far reach of the law stretches out across all spectrums of expression: writers, editors, poets, bloggers and many more face harsh prosecution under draconian dissent and defamation laws. Oh, and if you think all of this is happening far away from home, think again. Jabs at human rights are constantly being made even in bastions of freedom, such as the UK, where not long ago the Archbishop of Canterbury demanded stricter blasphemy laws all the while condemning a group of Danish cartoonists for the horrid crime of speaking their mind through a handful of drawings.