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Elcin Poyrazlar Headshot

Taking Dictation, Turkish Style

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I am a journalist. According to some people in the Turkish government, my job description should include submitting to everything, even gracefully allowing politicians to spit at me and my like. I should not revolt, I should not criticize and I should not complain. Like an increasing number of journalists, columnists, editors, and writers in Turkey, I should stomach or even applaud such treatment.

While Turkey's ruling AKP party is coming ever closer to absolute power, the country's freedom of the press is on the rack. The State Department's annual Human Rights Report, issued last week, underlines the Turkish government's ever tighter restrictions on such fundamental liberties. The report spells out how journalists are regularly harassed by prosecutors who bring dozens of cases against them and how the authorities ordered raids of newspaper offices, closed newspapers, issued them with fines or confiscated them.

There is barely a single day when Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan doesn't lash out at the media. According to him, we, the journalists, are responsible for instability in the country, because we talk too much about it. In his recent attack Erdogan blamed the media for Turkey's political and economic unrest and called on media company bosses to fire columnists who point out problems in the country. He said: "You cannot say, 'I cannot intervene in what the columnist writes.' Nobody has a right to increase tension in this country. I cannot let such articles upset the financial balances."

These unfortunate statements came as no surprise when the AKP's authoritarian tendencies are on the rise. Turkey's biggest media group Dogan Yayin Holding was fined $2.5 billion last year after a row with the government over a corruption news story, and the other media bosses are now shivering with fear.

Along with the calls for censorship and financial threats to the media, Turkish government officials have also resorted to sleazy rhetoric. Not long ago Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc gave us a sublime example. He spat at the media!

Arinc criticised the coverage of a police search of a public prosecutor's office in the town of Erzincan. So upset was the sensitive Mr Arinc about the use of the word "raid" to describe the police's action in media accounts that he made a spitting sound as he exclaimed, in the general direction of the media: "Ptui you all!"

That was indeed the cherry on the cake.

It looks like the Turkish government`s "raid" on the media is not going to end until all the journalists are brought into the same line, the AKP line. And the birds of different colours will be cruelly shunned. Still, I cannot shut my mouth. I am a journalist after all. An outraged one.