Why Turkey Brought Home A Bad Report Card

Turkey is earning some disastrous international grades. The European Union Progress Report and the latest Committee to Protect Journalists report were too embarrassing to bring home, writes Semih Idiz. To be listed among the worl'ds worst countries when it comes to freedom of the press is a big blemish on Turkey’s reputation.

al-monitor Protesters gathered in front of the Agos newspaper office during a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the killing of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink in Istanbul January 19, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal.

Topics covered

freedom of expression in turkey, censorship in turkey, censorship, akp

Oct 31, 2012

Remember how in our school years we used find excuses when we brought home lousy report cards?

Recently, Turkey came home with two disastrous report cards; one was the European Union Progress Report and the other was the latest Turkey report of the Committee to Protect Journalists. These reports were based on objective data that was retrieved in cooperation with government and non-government institutions in Turkey.

Both reports clearly expose that, when it comes democracy and basic rights, Turkey is not an advanced country — in fact, it is the opposite.

Meanwhile, it is possible to see, from its reaction to the reports, that the Justice and Development Party [AKP] attributes subjective interpretations of its own to universal values like democracy and freedom of press.

We don't know whether half of the Turkish population, who voted for the AKP in the last election, interpret these reports in the same way as the AKP. The AKP’s tendency to ridicule the structural shortcomings that were emphasized in the EU Progress Report and to throw this report into the “trash can” is an insult to the Turkish people.

This AKP approach, which reflects a mindset that can be summarized by, “Why shall we implement reforms if the EU is not willing to accept us as a full member?” means that these reforms were not conducted for the sake of democratization or for the Turkish people, but rather for the sake of EU membership.

Of course, we are aware of the EU’s hypocritical attitude. But it is also insincere for a government that claims that it brought advanced democracy to Turkey to have reacted with such an attitude.

On the other hand, to be listed beside the worst countries in the world when it comes to freedom of press is a blemish on our reputation. It is a stain for Turkey to appear in distinguished international media, like The Atlantic magazine, with the headlines “Turkey's war on journalists.”

As usual, the AKP tries to base its success stories on economic factors and mammoth projects. It is yet to be seen whether these relative economic successes will be sustainable or not.

I don't know what the Arab oil millionaires think, but for Western investors, who provide high-quality employment opportunities and technology transfer, what makes this country attractive are the reforms in political economic and social fields.

This can be seen from all relevant international reports. It is clear that our lousy report cards would shake confidence in the medium term. But since the government is not really troubled by them, we may need to learn the hard way.

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