Media Censorship in Turkey

The U.S. State Department recently released a new Human Rights Report on Turkey, which was critical of the government’s curtailment of press freedoms. According to this Turkish blogger, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was not pleased with the criticism. However, he didn’t help his cause much when he immediately blamed the Turkish media for the State Department criticism. Apparently, it is the press’s fault Turkey is being criticized for excessive media restrictions, because the press misleads Western governments about the true nature of the Turkish government.

The blogger goes on to describe the contentious relationship between Erdogan and the Turkish press. Ironically, while there are severe media restrictions in Turkey, the press has been able to consistently disrespect the Prime Minister in subtle ways, for example by referring to him by his first name, a sign of disrespect in Turkey. Erdogan is not doing himself any favors, though, by blaming his poor record on press freedom on the press itself.

Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The status of Kurdish in Turkey

Recently, a Turkish member of parliament, Ahmet Turk, caused a huge controversy by speaking a few words of Kurdish during a parliamentary session to celebrate “International Mother Tongue Day”. It is illegal in Turkey to speak any language other than Turkish in an official governmental capacity, so Turks actions were illegal. Despite the obvious problems with freedom of expression in this issue, the news is not all bad.

In 1994, several MPs were arrested for attempting to take their oaths of office in Kurdish. By contrast, it appears that no disciplinary action will be taken against Turk. So while the law banning other languages is still on the books, at least enforcement is not as stringent as it once was. The government TV station airing the session of parliament was immediately cut, though, as soon as Turk started speaking Kurdish. While the government is perhaps no longer as willing to arrest people right and left in order to silence them, it still has a vested interest in attempting to control the message its citizens hear. In this case, language itself is the message, and according to the government the only language that “real” Turks speak is Turkish.

This is an interesting take on the topic by a Turkish blogger. He is sympathetic to the plight of Turkish Kurds, but also wary of any elements of Kurdish nationalism.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Turkish and Armenian blogs

I’m tentatively thinking about following bloggers in both Turkey and Armenia. The two countries have, to say the least, an antagonistic history I think it will be interesting to see the political perspectives of bloggers living in Turkey vs. bloggers living in Armenia. The two blogs I am following for the moment (although I hope to add more) are Yerevan Journal and Turkish Diary. Despite the two countries’ differences, they face similar obstacles to press freedom
For example, in Turkey “insulting Turkishness” is a serious but vaguely defined crime, and is often used to punish those who acknowledge the Armenian genocide. However, intimidation is also a problem in Armenia and comes from both the government and local thugs. The author of Yerevan Journal refers to a “certain oligarch” who frequently uses threats and intimidation. It is telling that even though this man’s identity is probably widely known to anyone living in Yerevan, the blogger will not name him.
I have initially gravitated towards this subject because I’ve lived my whole life in Fresno, CA which has a large Armenian community. There is actually a part of downtown referred to as “Armenia Town” and you can minor in Armenian studies at Fresno State. William Saroyan (the Armenian-American author and playwright) is a local hero with tons of things named after him. Basically, I’ve always been exposed to Armenian culture and viewpoints, but never to Turkish ones. So, I’d like to educate myself about both countries by researching the viewpoints of ordinary bloggers.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 8:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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