While American presidential hopeful Donald Trump may ask security to remove journalists who ask him questions, the Turkish government is throwing “offensive” media personnel in prison for similar offenses. On Friday, Bülent Keneş, the editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, was removed from his office and arrested for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Twitter. Sadly, this is far from the first instance of media censorship by governmental forces in recent months.
As in previous cases leveled by the Erdoğan administration, Kenes is accused of “insulting the President,” a crime punishable by significant jail time. Last April, another Turkish journalist was sentenced to 10 months in prison for what he called a Twitter typo, which was perceived by the courts as a slight to then Prime Minister Erdoğan. The continued arrests of journalists and censorship are precisely what inspired Kenes’ criticism of the president, and his insistence that the people of Turkey should not cease their protestations despite the often costly repercussions.
“What should I say?” responded the journalist when asked how he would respond to the charges. “This is the situation of the country. We will hopefully become a democratic country ruled by law. We will not give up this struggle. Nobody should either.” Upon submitting to arrest, colleagues said that Kenes told them, “Keep fighting for democracy and the rule of law.”
The tweets in question were originally posted in August, and they’re certainly not complimentary of the president or his practices, but neither do they “incite hatred or violence” against Erdoğan, which means that Turkish law doesn’t necessarily consider them illegal. Regardless, Kenes was taken to Silivri Prison, Today’s Zaman reports.
With the next Parliamentary election just weeks away, many media channels are being banned altogether, making Turkey’s election season one that is eerily quiet. But Today’s Zaman is fighting back, recently releasing a piece on how their editor-in-chief was “illegally arrested.”
“The government’s attempts to intimidate independent and critical journalists by abusing at the criminal justice system have increased in intensity and frequency,” the publication writes. But to the best of their ability, they’re fighting back.