I do not watch TV often. However, I try to catch a political discussion program on CNN Turk that features four or five pundits from different political perspectives analyzing current issues. On March 27, as I was watching Al-Monitor columnist Kadri Gursel criticize yet another gag order on the Turkish press, another Al-Monitor contributor, Nagehan Alci, burst out at Gursel, “You have defied the ban by reading this article. I am ashamed to be on the same program with traitors.” It is mind-boggling to see a journalist defend a ban on freedom of the press, yet it is not rare in contemporary Turkey.
Indeed, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has achieved world notoriety by first banning Twitter, then YouTube. (Oddly, even some of his party members defy the ban.) This is just the latest in Erdogan’s long list of “prohibited” acts. From alcohol sales to cesarean operations to co-ed housing for college students, Erdogan has been awfully eager to generate bans. More perplexing to many Turks — especially the younger generation — is how he gets away with arbitrary legislation. There are several interrelated factors that adequately answer this question, but a partial reason is Turkish political culture. This, of course, predates the Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration of the last decade.