Photo: Erol Önderoğlu/ https://twitter.com/ErolOnderoglu
The 10th gathering of freedom of expression started with some sharp remarks towards the government and the current climate in Turkey. Freedom of expression is in the law. President of the Human Rights Association, Öztürk Türkdoğan said: ‘The only way is the rule of the law. We have to defend the rule of the law, whatever it may cost us.’
By Laurens Bammens*
Autocratic states which have just a single ruler seem to invest much more in the observation of social media. Much more than democratic states. Russia do influence what appears on social media. A state like China is less extreme, but does censor and block social media.
During the first panel for human rights organisations, President of the Human Rights Association, Öztürk Türkdoğan said the following: ‘The Turkish government has taken a stance that can be summed up in the balance between security and freedom. In human rights, there is no such balance, there is only freedom. There are things that can be restricted and there are those things that cannot. It is taking its toll on democracy.’
Panellist Murat Çelikkan from the Truth Justice Memory Centre said that the world has turned exactly into that what George Orwell described in his book ‘1984’. ‘In Turkey we are experiencing this nightmare. The state creates a certain oppression’, he said, ‘The state is pointing their fingers at artists, scenarists or journalists. They are losing their jobs and being punished. They have to install self-censorship in order to survive because of the financial pressure.’
According to Türkdoğan, there is a simple way to be freed from this structure: ‘The only way is the rule of the law. We have to defend the rule of the law, whatever it may cost us.’ The panellists called for organisation instead of only social media activism. ‘Social media isolates us’, said Prof. Dr. Șenem Korur Fincancı. She added that it is important to record what is happening for the future.
The gathering continued with testimonies from those who have visited places in Turkey that were bombed or ruined because of the Kurdish conflict. They call for action. They saw women and children locked in their cellars without any basic supplies. They could not come out because it was unsafe. A woman told them they stopped the bleeding with a diaper. ‘The problem is’, said speaker Zynep Tanbay, ‘that these cases only come to the attention of the people whom are directly involved. A majority of the people have no idea. Many stories go unheard, but these stories hold power. We are frequently accused of being thugs, but the only thugs I can think of is the president and his government.’
Later Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, the detained journalists from Cumhuriyet, will provide their testimonies.
***Laurens Bammens, PXL Journalism student and he is Dağ Medya Intern during the February 15– June 3 2016