The Washington Times - March 3, 2010, 03:38PM

Apparently failing to see the irony in such a defense, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday attempted to shake off criticism of his regime’s recent arrest of senior military officials by saying the detainments constituted “improving democracy and the rule of law,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“There is no tension between state institutions,” he is reported as saying. “Turkey is normalizing.”


Nevermind, it seems, that this particular path to normalization includes stop-offs at jail for more than fifty people and the very real possibility of criminal charges for more than thirty, individuals whom Erdogan’s government has accused of being part of a 2003 plot—concrete evidence of which has yet to surface—to overthrow the prime minister. 

The increasingly radical regime has also blamed journalists for Turkey’s ailing economy. And last September it hit the country’s largest media group, Dogan, with a $2.5 billion dollar fine—supposedly for overdue asset-sales fees. But journalists, including those at Dogan’s newspapers, have been a frequent target of Erdogan’s criticism, and the prime minister has on multiple occasions called for the boycott of Dogan-owned papers.

These events bear the disquieting beginnings of resemblance to ones that transpired under Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Putin, too, dislikes critical journalists: In 2006 the very vocal, anti-Putin reporter Anna Politkovskaya mysteriously turned up murdered in an elevator, and that same year the Kremlin’s Ministry of Culture had the Russian-language news programs produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty—programs that were often critical of the Kremlin—removed from the airwaves of dozens of radio stations. 

Putin, too, has levied outrageous fines on his enemies: In 2005 he charged Yukos, then Russia’s largest oil company, and its Putin-opponent owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky with  tax evasion. The company was forced into bankruptcy and Khodorkovsky, into a maximum-security Siberian prison, where he still languishes. 

Things have not yet gone this far in Turkey—but they appear to be headed that way.