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Published On: Wed, Jan 14th, 2015

Turkey, EU membership and press freedom

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By Uji Akimugu

Turkey is not a European country; 90% of its territory lies in Asia. Today, Turkey is a prosperous nation. The prospect of European Union membership galvanized reforms which invigorated a multi-party democracy and improved human rights. As a strong and loyal ally of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, overlooking Turkey to stand aloof by international community will not augur well especially with European bloc as this will create rivalry between Europe and other blocs in terms of European economic interests.

One will wonder why such analysis of Turkey is necessary, a country immersed in controversies regarding corruption, human rights violation and suppression of free speech. The world is now a global village; and the activities of one country are a concern to its neighbour or much to the whole world. Turkey, which has a history of great reformers and brave men, should not fall to parochial interest of its overzealous leader.

The first thing a man needs to survive is information, which expresses the do’s and don’ts of the society. Countries all over the world are governed by information, which some refers to as constitution or customs and traditions.

Information is important that the religious books believe that God Almighty informed the first couple on earth Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree at the centre of the Garden of Eden. Even they were deceived by the Satan and ate of the forbidden fruit; the primary objective of information had been establi9shed. It is still through information that the couple explained how they had been deceived by the Satan.

In modern times and in the twenty first century no true democracy can flourish without free press. Criticisms, in whatever disguise, is for correcting the person criticized. If a leader is unjustly criticized, the sympathy of the people goes to him and he becomes the beneficiary of the intended damage. This is because truth is like the lifebuoy which the ocean current cannot hide.

Turkish authorities’ crackdown on the press shows that Prescient Erdogan’s government is hiding something. And it is worthy of note that no government can flourish without criticism. Authoritarian states like North Korea would not progress fast economically and technologically as we see in the democratic South Korea today because of its primordial fear of the press. No amount of media hypes can bring down a popular government.

Men are naturally inquisitive, the more a state tries to suppress the freedom of speech the more the press will dig into its activities because the general belief is that it is hiding something. In December last year alone, Turkish police arrested more than twenty journalists whom the authorities claimed to have close ties with a US-based Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, on the ground that they were trying to form illegal organization and seize control of the state.

Zaman newspapers one of the Turkeys biggest media houses had been raided. Zaman editor Ekrem Dumani, wrote “Officers [were forced] back because of democratic reaction of friends. ” He later quoted , “Let those who have committed a crime be scared,” as he was being led away by agents of oppression.

Turkey which seeks to become a member of the European Union should not trample upon the rights of journalists, a core value in democratic European Union, EU bloc. It is not unconnected with Turkey’s human rights violation that EU ministers took a hard stand on its bid for membership recently, saying the raids on media houses are incompatible to with EU’s democratic norms.

But President Erdogan, instead of accepting his government’s weaknesses and embark on reforms in the polity, fired back at his critics, saying the 28-member EU should “mind their own business.”

Turkey’s role in the Middle East has been widely acknowledged especially in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS. President Erdogan needs to reform in order to qualify Turkey for EU membership and regain its respectful place in the comity of nations, unless he wants his country to continually face rejection from his EU critics. Maybe Erdogan should forget European Union. And even if he does, global community cannot forget about his government.

Uji Akimugu, a commentator on international issues, lives in Abuja.


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