Under the administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hundreds of journalists have been arrested for speech crimes in Turkey. They are primarily being arrested for expressing support for the Gülen movement or Kurdish secessionists. There have also been huge purges of thousands of public school teachers and government workers.
Now Erdogan has arrested a Turkish journalist with German citizenship. This prompted the government of Germany to cancel two rallies in Germany that would have featured ministers of the Turkish government.
Germany has 1.5 million Turks, though a large percentage do not actually hold citizenship. The planned rallies were specifically to campaign for Turkey’s April 16th public referendum on constitutional reforms. Huge numbers of Turks living in Europe routinely vote in Turkish elections.
Erdogan accused the German government of “Nazi practices” and threatened to come to Germany himself and give speeches. He says he will “stir up the world” against Germany.
Erdogan also said, “If we are fighting for freedom, if we are not uncomfortable with freedom of speech, if we believe in democracy, nobody can block us.” This comment almost sounds like Erdogan is speaking from a parallel universe, since Turkey has huge restrictions on what people are allowed to say.
Erdogan also accused the German government of supporting terrorist groups, because it is not illegal to express support for Kurdish separatist groups in Germany. So while Erdogan accused Germany of not having “free speech,” he also attacked them for having too much free speech when it comes to the issue of Kurdish separatism.
Ironically, Germany also has people in jail for speech crimes. The German government is currently arresting and prosecuting people for speaking out against Muslim immigration. There is even a new government office, tasked with censoring Facebook, run by notorious former East German Stasi agent Anneta Kahane. A woman who openly calls herself a communist. Last September German Justice Minister Heiko Maas stated “The Internet, however, is not a legal vacuum in which racist incitement and criminal utterances can be spread in an uncontrolled manner. In the case of internet users who propagate xenophobia and offensive racism, we must not mistakenly apply tolerance.”
The journalist that was arrested, who has German citizenship, is an ethnic Turk named Deniz Yucel. He is the Turkish coorspondent for Die Welt, or The World, newspaper. While visiting a police station in Instabul, to inquire about the investigation into the e-mail hacking of the Turkish Minister of Energy, he was arrested. He is being charged with “spreading propaganda of a terrorist organization and for inciting the public to hatred.” Specifically he is accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK].
On April 16th, 2017, Turkey has a public referendum on several amendments to the Turkish constitution. The goal of the referendum is to give the Turkish president more power. This is seen as almost a joke by outside critics, because Erdogan has seized so much power already. Erdogan’s AKP currently rules the parliament with an outright majority of 58%. The pan-Turkic nationalist party, MHP, has another 7%. This party is connected to the Grey Wolves, which is a designated “terrorist group” in several countries. The MHP actually lost half their seats in the last election because the AKP ran on such a militant platform that they stole MHP’s thunder.