NYT editorial: ‘Erdoğan turns Turkey into an authoritarian state’

The editorial of the New York Times is here:

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was in Brussels last week seeking to repair relations with Europe, but the first place to look for a solution is within himself for the political disaster he has created at home. Once hailed as the leader of a model Muslim democracy, he is transforming it into an authoritarian state that poses dangers not just for Turkey but for its allies in NATO.

The latest turmoil has its roots in a political war between Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and his former close allies who follow Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Islamic scholar who lives in Pennsylvania. The tensions erupted into the open last month with a corruption probe that led to the resignation of four government ministers and threatened to ensnare Mr. Erdogan’s family. The prime minister called the probe a “coup attempt” and blamed a “secret organization” within the judiciary and police. The government has since purged hundreds of police officials and prosecutors and sought to assert control over the judiciary. It also drafted legislation expanding the government’s power to appoint judges and prosecutors, further breaching judicial independence, and prevented journalists from reporting freely. All the while, Mr. Erdogan has spewed endless conspiracy theories and incendiary rhetoric, even hinting at American treachery and suggesting that the American ambassador might be expelled.

The probe and Mr. Erdogan’s reaction may well be politically motivated. There are important local elections in March. But Mr. Erdogan should be insisting that the probe be fair and transparent, not trying to derail it. His ruthless ways and attempt to crush dissent are not new, as the crackdown against demonstrators during protests last June showed. Such actions trample on democratic reforms demanded by the European Union as part of Turkey’s bid for E.U. membership, which may be more in peril than ever, and are at odds with the ground rules for NATO members.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was right when he said in Brussels that the Europeans must demand that Turkey return to the rule of law. The Obama administration also needs to send a strong message about Mr. Erdogan’s damaging course. Whether Turkey nurtures its hard-won democracy, which has contributed to its economic growth, or turns authoritarian is as critical to regional stability and to its NATO allies as it is to Turks.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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