Turkey demands “patriotic” coverage of “Operation Olive Branch”(sic)

Turkey demands “patriotic” coverage of “Operation Olive Branch”(sic)


“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan


“The first casualty of War is Truth”


In 1758,  Samuel (Dr.) Johnson, the English writer, wrote: ‘Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.’ (from The Idler, 1758) …And so the editors of Turkey’s leading media outlets were summoned to a meeting on 21 January, 2018, hosted by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who happened to be accompanied by the deputy prime minister, the defence minister and the ruling AKP’s spokesman. The purpose of this meeting? No less than to inform journalists as to how the war against the Kurds in Northern Syria – Rojava would be reported, entitled:


“15 ‘recommendations’ on how to cover the military operations in a ‘patriotic’ manner”


Journalists needed “take account of national interests when quoting international news sources critical of Turkey,” to “remember the care taken by the armed forces not to harm civilians” and to “not highlight demonstrations and statements” by political organisations that support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as to avoid creating  “news reports liable to boost the morale” of the PKK and the (Rojavan) PYD, and to contact government and AKP representatives “to get good information.”



On January 24, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the freedom-of-the-press NGO, with its head office in Paris, France, condemned the “increase in censorship and social media arrests in Turkey, that has accompanied the Afrin Operation.”


Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that:

“Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.


Some chance in Turkey. And if the situation was bad following the abortive coup of 15 July 2016, it has now become critical following the Turkish military adventure into Northern Syria.


Reporters without Borders:

…”condemns the increase in censorship in Turkey – including “patriotic journalism” directives and a wave of arrests of critical journalists – that has accompanied the Turkish government’s three-day-old military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region.”


Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) goes on to say:

“In essence, the aim of the directives is to put the Turkish media at the service of the government and its war goals.”


So what chance now for any critic of Turkish President (and Chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly autocratic regime to voice any dissent?


Johann Bihr, (head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk):

“The new flood of propaganda, the increase in the witch-hunt against critics and the almost complete absence of any debate about this military offensive all highlight the degree to which pluralism has collapsed in Turkey… Not content with its stranglehold on the media landscape, the government is now trying to assert complete control over everything that the media report, at the risk of undermining public trust and fuelling tension.”


Since the start of the  military campaign:

“More than 100 warrants for the arrest of “terrorist propaganda” suspects have been issued in the past two days. The victims have included Nurcan Baysal, a writer and columnist for the T24 news website, who is being held by anti-terrorist police in Diyarbakir, a city in southeastern Anatolia with a Kurdish majority. Her lawyer said her arrest was prompted by tweets criticizing the Afrin military offensive.

İshak Karakaş, the editor of the newspaper Halkin Nabzi and a columnist for the exile news website Arti” Gerçek, was arrested in Istanbul on the night of 21 January, while Arti TV’s correspondent in Ankara, Sibel Hürtaş, and two reporters for the pro-Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya, Hayri Demir and Seda Taşkın, were arrested last night…”


Likewise on Monday 24 January Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) district co-chair Ferhat Kut was taken into custody in Nusaybin district of Mardin (Northern Kurdistan) for “attending a press conference in protest at Turkey’s invasion operation against Afrin.” (ANF) Arrests now continue across the region of people who express their disagreement with the military operation. For example, earlier in the week, police detained 9 people in Adana because of their social media posts; 11 of the 13 arrested at the demonstration in Istanbul’s Kadiköy district against the war on Monday 24th have been jailed; some of the charges reading “participation in illegal meeting and march with arms and not dispersing despite a warning”. Likewise another two reporters for the Turkish branch of the German newspaper Tageszeitung were detained under suspicion of “inciting the people to violence.” Addressing the arrest of peace and human rights activist Nurcan Baysal, Emma Sinclair-Webb, the head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Turkey said:

“She has been detained in connection with her tweets calling for peace and condemning the Turkish government’s military incursion in the northwest Syrian enclave of Afrin.”


At the start of the military operations, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself warned supporters of the pro-Kurdish opposition not to protest the military’s operation in northern Syria. Speaking to his supporters in the northwestern city of Bursa:

“Know that wherever you go out on the streets our security forces are on your necks,”

he is also quoted as saying…” Adding: “Mind you, anyone making the mistake of getting out on to public squares will pay the heaviest price. I have to tell you because this is a national struggle. We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…”


…Of course with both presidential and National Assembly election scheduled for November 2019 (if not earlier), presidential candidate Erdoğan is aware of the slim margin that his constitutional referendum passed by in April 2017. The Financial Times put a label on the cynicism involved in its January 24 headline: ‘Erdogan rides nationalist wave in support of Afrin offensive’. ‘“Mr Erdogan knows that whenever there are threats to national security, his popularity goes up,” says Murat Gezici, founder of the Gezici polling company.’ (Financial Times)


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) concludes:

“Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency that was proclaimed after a coup attempt in July 2016. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and the country now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists detained.”


George Orwell:

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.


Looking now, at the images community activists are releasing from the besieged Afrin canton, images of the dead and the wounded as a direct result of the Turkish artillery and fighter-jet bombardments on civilians areas, already called a war crime by one international jurist association (the International Association of Democratic Lawyers), listening also to quotes from Turkish politicians and President Erdoğan himself, you may well understand what George Orwell meant when he talked about making “lies sound truthful and murder respectable” as well giving “an appearance of solidity to pure wind“…


…with the enormous exception of the unbelievable suffering being dealt to innocent civilians by self-serving politicians, in this Northern part of Syria – now called the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava.


séamas carraher






By Carlos Latuff

(http://twitpic.com/6669a2) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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