Surprise guest at the 10th annual gathering for freedom of expression in Istanbul said Erdogan is risking undermining Turkish society and all administrations in Turkey. Others also had sharp opinions for Erdoğan and the Turkish government.
By Laurens Bammens*
‘President Erdoğan is undermining Turkish society’, said Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, at the 10th annual gathering for freedom of expression in Istanbul, ‘If this continues, he will undermine all administrations in Turkey.’ Assange hinted that Erdoğan’s actions might end up in an undisciplined military among other organisations.
‘It cannot be the case that in Turkish society, speaking the truth is a crime’, started Assange. That phrase was the key point in many of the speaker’s lectures during the gathering. Also Erdem Gül: ‘If there is a group in Turkey that does not want to be free, then let them not be free. But let the others, like us, be free.’
Assange also said that Erdoğan is criminalising how the press works. If a journalist reports on the government with a government source, the source is a conspirator and the journalist is a spy for the enemy. ‘Four years ago I spoke in Turkey’, said Assange, ‘I said that how Kurdish journalists were treated at that time, it would soon be the same for Turkish journalists. It seems like I was correct.’
More speakers took a swing at Erdoğan and the government. Especially their treatment for the right of freedom of speech. Lawyer Erin Keskin said: ‘The state is radically evil and the state turns citizens radically evil.’
Also present was Edip Yılmaz who used to be an editor for Zaman newspaper. He talked about the days before the government takeover. He said there were probably over 1000 protesters in front of the Zaman building trying to keep the police out: ‘The police started using tear gas and a water cannon. There were children, women and elderly in the crowd. People were fainting because of the gas. Then the police took everything from the building and we were thrown out, quite literally.
***Laurens Bammens, PXL Journalism student and he is Dağ Medya Intern during the 15 February – 3 June 2016