Remember that stirring march of world leaders in Paris last week? (You know… the one Obama wasn’t at.) Among the many notable dignitaries there was Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, showing his country’s support for freedom of expression and a refusal to back down in the face of terrorism and oppression. That was great to see from our staunch ally, wasn’t it? But like so many of the world leaders at that march, some of his own government’s actions back home don’t seem to be quite in synch with the stated goals of the event. Take, for example, the case of Sedef Kabaş, a Turkish journalist and television news anchorwoman. She recently expressed a bit of free speech of her own and received some attention from Mr. Davutoglu’s administration.
Prosecutors seek up to five years of imprisonment for Turkish journalist and anchorwoman Sedef Kabaş for her tweet in which she called on citizens not to forget the name of the judge who dropped the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption probe that involved high-profile names and former Cabinet members.
An indictment has been prepared by the prosecutors on charges of “targeting people involved in the fight against terrorism and making threats,” which is punishable with jail time from one-and-a-half years to five years.
“Do not forget the name of the judge who decided not to pursue the proceedings in the Dec. 17 probe,” Kabaş tweeted. She was referring to a massive graft probe which was officially dropped on Dec. 16 when the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office rejected an objection to its decision to not pursue proceedings in the case.
Ms. Kabas was arrested in December, had her phone and computer equipment confiscated and is now awaiting the results of her trial. She may spend up to the next half decade in prison. And this was all for one tweet. And when you look at it, there wasn’t exactly some great threat to national security in her 140 characters. She felt that the dismissal of a government corruption case didn’t exactly look fair and reminded people “not to forget” the name of the judge who threw the case out. For that she was placed in custody.
This is free speech in Turkey.
Of course, Turkey wasn’t alone in this. Even the hosts of the event, the French, were busy arresting more than fifty people for admittedly horrible, hateful statements toward Jews. While I agree that French society is entirely justified in condemning those people and even shunning them, it is very troubling to American sensibilities to see them thrown in jail for it.
We could list others, but you get the point. And yet Turkey truly deserves special attention here. First of all, their transgression here wasn’t only against one of their citizens or a protester. This is a journalist who chairs the national news. The sin of this is compounded by their complete refusal to be a responsible member of any sort of civilized coalition. They have been a poor ally in the war on ISIS, and that is putting it far more generously than they deserve. Their continued, aggressive stance toward Israel is exacerbating tensions in the Middle East and weakening Israel’s hand at a time when you might think one of our allies would be pitching in to shore up the berms. The seemingly intentional porosity of their border with Syria is, if anything, a form of foreign aid to the very people who carried out the attacks which Turkey allegedly condemned in Paris. I know I’ve gone on about this before, but if John Kerry and Barack Obama want to show some real progress and demonstrate their seriousness about this international crisis, it’s time for them to sit down for a long talk with Turkey and it should include the subject of how much aid they receive and their hopes of greater involvement in the economic affairs of Europe and the West.