Turkey jails two journalists for republishing Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is becoming increasingly Islamist, increasingly oppressive, and increasingly regressive (are those all synonyms)? This once vibrant and largely secular country is now an oligarchy, and it’s forbidden to criticize both Islam and Erdogan. According to the Associated Press, there are nearly 2,000 court cases open in which people have been indicted for insulting the President. Some democracy!

The latest antic of this censorious government, however, is especially vile. Two journalists working for the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have each been sentence to two years in prison (actually three, but reduced to two on technical grounds) for illustrating their columns with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Here are the courageous writers, Hikmet Cetinkaya (left) and Ceyda Karan (R):


Here’s the familiar cartoon that accompanied their columns:


Because of this cartoon, they were, as the AP reports, “acquitted of “insulting religious values” but convicted on charges of “inciting public hatred”.  Yet, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, this cartoon is by no means “Islamophobic”: it has varying interpretations—but one of them is not the demonization of Muslims.

One of the nastier aspects of this case is who brought it before the court (my emphasis):

The state-run Anatolia news agency said the case was brought by a total of 1,280 plaintiffs including Erdogan’s daughters Esra and Sumeyye, his son Bilal and his son-in-law, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

The Erdogan family was represented by a lawyer in court, it added.

After the verdict, members of the public who had brought the complaint and were present in court shouted “Allahu Akbar”, Cumhuriyet reported — Arabic for ‘God is greatest’.

If that’s not unseemly entanglement of the government with a supposedly free press, I don’t know what is.  Finally, the persecution of this opposition paper is continuing, with two journalists from the same venue on trial for much more serious charges:

Cumhuriyet, which staunchly opposes the Islamic-rooted government of Erdogan, has been regularly targeted by prosecutions as concerns grow over freedom of speech in Turkey.

Its editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul are currently on trial on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.

And here they are:


ditor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily Can Dundar (C) and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul (R) arrive at the Istanbul courthouse for their trial on April 22, 2016

I am so sad about what’s happening to Turkey. I’ve been there several times and always found the people friendly, hospitable, and secular. It was an open and fairly democratic place, with the Islam kept in its place: the mosque and the home. Now the whole country is going the way of Saudi Arabia, and I fear for my Turkish friends. If journalists can be sent to jail for three years for publishing a cartoon, all bets are off.

h/t: Char Adams


  1. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if the European Union (beloved by President Obama) can ignore it’s principles long enough to implement the visa waiver process and eventually accept Turkey into the EU.

    • Posted April 29, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Nothing about the EU (where I live) can surprise me anymore.

  2. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    This is what I tried sending earlier with the broken link.

  3. Heather Hastie
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Freedom of speech is in trouble in Turkey. Erdoğan wants to join the EU and for a while that was staying his hand, but now that they require his help re Syria, IS, and the refugee crisis, he’s taking advantage. It’s scary.

  4. geckzilla
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    At my astronomy forum there is a woman originally from Turkey who fled years ago from an oppressive family and an oppressive country to Germany. Her writings are always tinged with tragedy, but one thing she wrote struck me.

    Turkish citizens, she says, being rejected from EU membership, instead of trying to remedy the human rights violations which have impeded their joining, have become very resentful and much more Islamist than they would have if they had been allowed to join. The political propaganda spread around to show how the EU doesn’t care a bit about Turkey is very effective because of this rejection.

    Obviously no one can predict what would have happened, but it does make me wonder. Sometimes I think punishment only serves those who punish—the complete opposite of what it needs to do. I wonder if it works at all in certain cases.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      “…have become very resentful and much more Islamist than they would have if they had been allowed to join.”

      This sort of response doesn’t seem to reflect a very deep commitment to secular values, and would seem to confirm the EU’s judgement.

      • Posted April 29, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        I agree.

      • Posted April 30, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink


        Also, I’m not sure not allowing a country into the EU can be accurately described as a “punishment”. The Turks aren’t children, and Europe isn’t their dad. It’s also not somehow all Europe’s fault if Turkey becomes a regressive place to live.

        If nothing else, this idea doesn’t take into account the complexity of the situation (to give just one single example, suppose that Europe is something that works when comparatively small and homogeneous, and gets impossible to manage when larger and more various).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      I would say it’s Erdoğan’s response (the propaganda) rather than the decision that’s the problem. I don’t think the EU should have to lower its values for Turkey. Erdoğan’s effectively trying to blackmail the EU into letting him join without having to meet the same criteria as everyone else. It’s a pattern of behaviour we see from him imo.

      • geckzilla
        Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Nevertheless, I find it very useful to hear the opinions of those who are closely affected. One wonders if there could have been a better outcome; some kind of decision that wouldn’t have empowered the Islamists.

        • Randy Schenck
          Posted April 29, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Not familiar with the EU rejection but Turkey is a long time member of NATO and should require a fair treatment of it’s own people. This push by it’s current leader is not good for any better relations with Europe or the U.S.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 29, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

          I definitely agree that it’s useful to hear the opinions, and it’s interesting to hear them from someone from Turkey in particular. It’d be really interesting to talk to her.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      One theory of punishment is that it must make someone uncomfortable, but not angry.

      Still, do we have any example of Islamists being driven to extinction in any Muslim country? Are they not growing in every country where they exist, except maybe the despotic ones?

      I don’t think we have a model yet of how to secularize a democratic, Islamic society.

      • Posted April 29, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        + 1. As far as I know, secularism in Turkey was kept alive by periodic or constant interventions of the army in politics; and once things were left to the voters, the country started its regress to theocracy.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        It’s a problem of religion. They promote the idea that in (in this case) in order to be a good Muslim you have to support the party that presents as the most Islamic. The fear in many of those societies of being considered “not a good Muslim” is very real.

        It’s like Jerry was writing about the other day with the veil being banned on Turkish uni campuses. Women didn’t want it to be an option because then they would feel forced to wear it to be considered a good Muslim.

        It’s an issue with just the hijab in the West too, where Muslims feel obliged to wear it because otherwise they’re not considered “moral.”

        Another example is back when there was prohibition, people voted for it because it was the “right thing to do.” We had it for a short time in NZ, and apparently my grandfather always voted for it for that reason though personally he was opposed to it.

        Emotional blackmail.

        • Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:04 am | Permalink

          “We had it for a short time in NZ”

          Only until the soldiers returned from the war! (version 1.0)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:30 am | Permalink

            Though its evil influence persisted in the form of the ‘six o’clock swill’ till the 60’s, and Sunday closing even longer. People would rush out of their workplace at knock-off time (5 p.m.) and storm the pub in an effort to pour as much down their throats as possible before chucking-out time at 6 p.m. (I almost wrote ‘chucking-up’ time. That, too).

            Country districts mostly escaped this by virtue of being remote country districts, where the long arm of the (local) law was more likely to be holding a pint than issuing summonses.

            Another relic was ‘dry areas’, because when restoration occurred it was voted for on a borough by borough basis. When we moved in to Mt Roskill, part of Auckland’s ‘Bible Belt’, it was still dry, partly due to religious wowsers and partly because many residents who did drink preferred to buy their booze in another suburb and didn’t want nasty pubs or bottle shops near them. Nimby hypocrites. Fortunately for us we were near the border with civilisation and there was a bottle shop in our local shops the other side of the road (and the boundary) a quarter mile away.


          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

            Ha ha! You’re right. It did continue in the King Country a few years after the rest of NZ got rid of it, which is where the grandfather I mentioned lived. However, it apparently never actually stopped him drinking even though he kept voting for it.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:12 am | Permalink

          It’s not totally a problem of religion. Yes, certainly, it’s a *tendency* of religion, but most other societies reached a point where this tendency receded.

          I wonder if it’s because this tendency wasn’t squashed before we had the technology to create an effective totalitarian society?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:33 am | Permalink

            Orwell might agree with you.


          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 30, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            Good point. It’s certainly an advantage in the parts of the world where Christianity held sway that the Enlightenment was well established before the technological advances of modern communications.

  5. Posted April 29, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    “After the verdict, members of the public who had brought the complaint and were present in court shouted “Allahu Akbar”, Cumhuriyet reported — Arabic for ‘God is greatest’.”

    The same reaction was reported after the beating of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of fear for friends, does anyone know if gravelinspector is OK? There has been a large helicopter crash with 13 dead transiting from an oil platform in Norway. (Not that I know where gravelinspector was last situated.)

    • Posted April 29, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      sorry, that norway crash is not good news.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Good grief.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:42 am | Permalink

      Just one British on board, which improves the odds of it not being our resident rock-botherer.

      On April 27th, he posted re going to visit a friend in psychiatric hospital, which would presumably be in UK.

      Hope he checks in soon.

      (To WEIT, not the hospital!)

  7. Posted April 29, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Nina's Soap Bubble Box and commented:
    Religious Values have no meaning or force outside of those who are members.

    Prince, the rock star, died because of his religious objection to medical treatment and died of exhaustion and drugs.


  8. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, in New Zealand, I’m embarrassed to say that the Government (in the form of the ASSociate Minister of Tourism, an ugly and obnoxious wowser named Paula Bennett) has censored three painted campervans operated by Wicked Campers. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/79413244/chief-censor-backs-ban-on-offensive-wicked-campers-designs

    The three showed cartoons of e.g. Snow White snorting Coke and similar.

    I have to say I find Wicked Campers slogans usually crude and not very funny but Jeezus flaming Christ, only Nazis would go banning stuff on the grounds that it’s unsuitable for five-year-olds to see.

    I thought we’d got past the days when someone could be threatened with prosecution for saying ‘Bullshit’ in public. Apparently I was wrong.

    Sadly, it isn’t only in Islamic shitholes that there are censorious assholes trying to control what anybody says.


  9. Posted April 30, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Turkey, don’t act like a dumb turkey.

  10. Luis Santamaria
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    He is finding an unlikely ally in the Spanish Government, which is also suing case after case against artists and activists for “offense to religious sentiments”.

  11. redfrost
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    You say you’re “sad” about what is going on in Turkey. Really? you should be angry, really angry, and saying you are fucking crazy angry with the Muslim nutcase Erdogan. Fuck him and his family.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 30, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Common. Why beat around the bush. Tell us how you really feel. 😉

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