Supporters swarmed Ekrem Dumanli, the editor in chief of the newspaper Zaman, as he was taken into custody on Sunday, December 14, 2014
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says mass arrests on Dec. 14 of journalists, screenwriters and television producers were necessary to eliminate agents of a “parallel state” bent on seizing power. But Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to stifle criticism and dissent show an authoritarian leader living in a parallel universe, one where being a democracy, a NATO ally and a candidate for membership in the European Union are somehow compatible with upending the rule of law and stifling freedom of expression.
The arrests closely follow wild accusations that the acclaimed Turkish novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak are puppets of a mysterious “international literature lobby” dedicated to discrediting Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P. The authors have been subjected to a social-media smear campaign labeling them as “projects” used by the West to slander Mr. Erdogan and his party.
Last February, Mr. Erdogan’s government pushed through new laws severely restricting Internet freedom and curbing the independence of Turkey’s judiciary in response to a corruption scandal that rocked the government last December. The timing of the mass arrests coincides with the one-year anniversary of the scandal, and appears designed to prevent last year’s revelations from being revisited in public. Most of the arrested journalists work for the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group and the newspaper Zaman, both affiliated with Fethullah Gulen, a political rival of Mr. Erdogan.
In September, Mr. Erdogan’s government announced a fresh strategy for Turkey’s long-thwarted efforts to join the European Union. But after the European Union criticized the recent mass arrests as “incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy,” Mr. Erdogan reacted by telling the E.U. to mind its own business.
Mr. Erdogan’s paranoid bullying is deeply worrisome. His government’s sweeping efforts to stifle freedom of expression, slander novelists and neutralize the judiciary are destroying Turkey’s democracy. Next year, Turkey will assume the presidency of the Group of 20. Mr. Erdogan’s government hopes to use this as a platform to raise Turkey’s international standing. His assault on democratic rights is achieving just the opposite.
I must agree. The man is going crazy. He will no doubt add to this to his collection of “foreign press” who are attacking him and become even more paranoid.