September 10, 2015
By Taniel Koushakjian (@Taniel_Shant)
On Sunday, September 6, the New York Times Editorial Board wrote a rebuke of three countries in the world whose governments have intimidated, beaten, prosecuted, and imprisoned journalists all in an effort to silence the freedom of the press. In addition to Egypt, Turkey and Azerbaijan were rightfully called out for their anti-democratic trends.
“On Tuesday, in Azerbaijan, an award-winning investigative journalist was not allowed to finish her closing statement before a judge sentenced her to more than seven years in prison.
"Authorities in Turkey, meanwhile, took three journalists from VICE news, a media company, into custody last weekend, claiming, spuriously, that the journalists were aiding the Islamic State. Later in the week, police officers raided the office of another company that owns news outlets.
“These efforts by governments to silence journalists are having a profoundly corrosive effect on journalism at a time when strong news gathering is sorely needed.”
It is refreshing to hear the NYT Editorial Board continually call for “a more robust response from the international community.” Indeed, such calls were registered by the Times when RFE/RL reporter Khadija Ismayilova was first arrested in Azerbaijan 10 months ago. The Times went even further when they published Ismayilova’s jail-penned letter to the editor this summer.
While Turkey is less frequently criticized in major publications, the New York Times did identify “Mr. Erdogan’s paranoid bullying” following a wave of mass arrests of journalists and new laws restricting public access to the Internet late last year. “Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to stifle criticism and dissent show an authoritarian leader living in a parallel universe,” the Times wrote in December.
In 2013, Turkey surpassed Iran and China as the world’s number one imprisoner of journalists, a title that it retains today.
Certainly, the NYT is correct to assert this week that “World leaders, meanwhile, should do more than issue paltry statements expressing ‘grave concern.’ They should raise hell.”
The question is, will world leaders, particularly here in the United States, heed these calls, or will the Turkish and Azerbaijani government’s assault on independent journalism continue to get worse?