Turkish police with shields in Taskim Square (Photo: Lonna Lisa Williams)
This article blog appeared originally on Digital Journal
On live television, Turkish police closed a TV news station in Istanbul allegedly linked to a foe of President Tayyip Erdogan. Is this the end of journalistic freedom in Turkey or the end of Islamist leader Erdogan?
I watched a live TV broadcast on YouTube yesterday; it was more riveting than a spy film. I could not stop watching history play out before my eyes. Samanyolu Haber showed the invasion of the Kanalturk TV news station by Turkish police. The police, dressed in combat helmets and body armor, pressed their shields against Istanbul citizens and journalists. They sprayed mace across a barrier erected to protect the news station, and some of it deflected against clear plastic umbrellas. An armored police combat vehicle, that would be illegal in Europe or America, shot streams of water from its rooftop canon nearby.
No court of law or parliamentary procedure could defend AK Party leader Erdogan's dictator-like actions. As I saw a plain-clothes police officer shoving a water-soaked journalist who was close to tears, I wondered if such scenes played out in Nazi Germany before World War II. However, there was a difference: this police officer sported a full Islamist beard, which was previously forbidden among public employees during the secular democratic influence of Ataturk, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey.
My Turkish husband watched with me, pointing out details I would have missed on my own. We sat at our dining table in China where I teach Journalism and Writing for CyberSpace at an American-style university. It was almost noon here near Shanghai but only 7 a.m. in Istanbul.
"See, that is a CHP (People's Republican Party) Parliament Member in that gray suit. It is illegal for the police to touch him, but they just shoved him. He comes from Ataturk's own democratic party and is there at the news station to show support for free speech."
Ordinary Istanbul citizens, who live in apartment buildings near Haberturk news station, clapped their hands in peaceful protest of the police actions, as if to say, "Good job, Erdogan. You've really done it this time."
Inside the station, the news team continued their live broadcast until the last possible moment. Police called in a firefighter who cut the steel barrier's lock outside. I saw big metallic shears and bare hands trying to stop them. Then armed hordes entered the building. Police stood guard outside the door as journalists, looking stressed and full of sorrow, walked out in a single line, their press badges dangling around their necks. Other news stations continued covering their downfall, focusing on the faces of the men and women who walked silently past.
People held up banners that read "Free Speech Cannot Be Silenced" as the crowd chanted those words in Turkish and continued clapping. News sources from around the world covered this story and shared these images.
As those reporters walked out of their occupied station, it looked like the end of free journalism in Turkey. I remembered my own experiences in Istanbul, where my husband was tortured at a police station, we were both attacked by police during a peaceful street rally, and I was nearly arrested for a photo I'd published. I covered this news for Digital Journal and turned it into a Kindle book. I walked with them in 2013, and I walk with them now.
"Maybe Erdogan has lost his mind through his lust for absolute control. Maybe the effects of chemotherapy from his cancer—that he tries to hide—have affected him," my Turkish husband observed. "In any case, this is a dark day for Turkey."
Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English, Writing for CyberSpace, and Journalism an American-style university in China. She writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, Turkey, science fiction, and fantasy. Lonna was a journalist and photographer for a California newspaper, and she regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.” Follow her blog or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.