May 14, 2014 | ERDOĞAN

Press Freedom in Turkey: It's All Relative

Strong-willed, iron-fisted rulers have a thing for criticism, especially the kind generated by foreign entities or nationals, namely utter disdain and pathological hatred. The more authoritarian the overlord the more predictable the response which usually boils down to declaring (A) the gross mendacity of the critique and (B) its hypocrisy, in the sense of the critic being the worst offender. Look no further than Kim the 3rd for a connoisseurship of this art-form with facts and numbers to back him up (albeit incredulously used out of context, but still one has to recognize the effort), an obvious inspiration for Turkey's beleaguered PM, Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Similarly to other self appointed perennial stewards of States, Erdogan is afflicted by a severe case of conspirac-o-phobia, which only makes the various critical voices all the more malevolent and underhanded in his eyes. In this recent case of Freedom House's report on the deteriorating conditions of press freedom in Turkey, one can see the by-the-book (the Handbook of Intl. Diplomacy - Authoritarian edition) reaction of the Premier which includes declaring the report as a bunch of lies and pointing to the far worst journalistic conditions in the NGO's home country (the US) as well as its allies, Germany & Israel that seem incredulously to be held by the report's authors to a much higher standard than his country.

 

Thus, a furiously righteous Erdogan raged in Parliament against the fabrications and distortions of the Freedom House's report, going so far as to proudly proclaim that, in fact, the freewheeling Turkish media are quite mean to him (unjustifiably, purposely mean), whereas he, magnanimous and tolerant as he is, stoically puts up with them, all in the name of freedom of expression, journalistic integrity and his own awesomeness. Hell, they should erect his bust in the lobby of their Washington headquarters, or at least have his picture framed and hanged on a wall of suitable exposure. And they would if they weren't being furtively manipulated by one of the several treasonous networks that sinisterly haunt his government. And yes, fine, there are a few jailed journalists in Turkey (not as many as the deceitful report states, some have been deported), who obviously are very bad people, so where is the harm in that? And let's not forget that the penitentiary system in Turkey is a model of rehabilitation and human dignity (do not be swayed by the western propaganda, à la Midnight Express, that depict it as an antechamber to Hell), and therefore the incarcerated reporters are probably there voluntarily, enjoying their free meals and precious alone-time. In any case, these are rare occurrences; most offending journalists are fired in a safe and humanitarian way.

 

And so what if most TV channels downplayed or completely ignored reporting on the Gezi brouhaha? Surely an educational documentary about the melting ice caps is vastly more important in the long term than some wannabe reactionaries spoiling Istanbul's peaceful order? Who in his right mind would prefer to watch mobs doing what mobs atavistically do instead of flip-flopping adorable penguins? This is not media censorship, this is public service.

 

The picked-on PM was especially upset at the hypocrisy of his foreign critics who he postulated would not have his own restrain when faced with the slander he has to deal with on daily basis. Pity the poor journalistic soul in the US or Germany that dares to paint Obama or Merkel in less than flattering colors; you surely have heard of this thing called "extraordinary rendition", right? In Turkey on the other hand, the offending reporters only get a slap on the wrist, maybe a menacing tirade via a (pre-recorded) call by Erdogan himself, and possibly a prolonged detox getaway in some uninhabited Black Sea islets. One only has to read the innocuous name-calling directed to Obama by the US subservient media as opposed to the vitriolic smears heapped upon Erdogan by the Turkish rags to verify this. So what if Obama is sometimes (courtesy of Fox News) referred as anti-American, a terrorist-sympathizer, a racist or even a socialist? In the right context these are almost terms of endearment, and in any case far less "immoral" or malicious than those defamatory rhetoric catapulted at Erdogan (bad tipper, pallid, holographic), slanderous terms which attacks the core of the man himself.