- - Thursday, August 4, 2016


Knowledge is power, and no one understands that better than the powerful. Controlling the flow of information is the key of staying a step ahead of the people, particularly in places where freedom of thought is neither appreciated nor condoned. In post-coup Turkey, in China, and even in America the politicians unpack strategies to keep a tight grip on the people. A free press is often the only institution capable of sounding the alarm when objective fact is endangered by official fiction. That’s the only way the flame of liberty can endure.

Nearly two weeks after the government put down an attempted coup led by the army, the Turkish government has issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists that the authorities accuse of participating in the failed overthrow of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Attacking the media is a sure sign that Mr. Erdogan has allowed his radical Islam sympathies overwhelm his democratic obligations, earning him condemnation from human right organizations. “By rounding up journalists the government is failing to make a distinction between criminal acts and legitimate criticism,” says Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe. “Rather than stifling press freedom and intimidating journalists into silence it is vital that Turkish authorities allow the media to do their work and end this draconian clampdown on freedom of expression.”

Erdogan loyalists have insisted to NATO allies and other observers that the crackdown comports with the rule of law. Arrests numbering 13,000 have swept up military leaders, university officials and professors, and opposition politicians. Sixty thousand soldiers, policemen, judges and civil servants have been suspended from their jobs or fired.

It gets worse. Word has emerged of unspeakably brutal treatment of the thousands of prisoners held in sports arenas — hog-tied, raped, denied food, water and medical attention. Partisans may lie, but photographs don’t, so President Erdogan has turned his wrath against the press. Given light, the people will find their way to the facts. This mightily enrages despots.

In China, a different kind of media crackdown is underway — more restrained, but no less damaging to the free distribution of information. The Cyberspace Administration of China, the nation’s Internet regulator, has ordered online service providers to quit disseminating their original news reports and distribute only material produced by official online and print sources.

China has no First Amendment, and Beijing’s latest blow to press freedom falls particularly hard. Despite the relaxation of restraints on free enterprise, the ruling Communist Party is moving in the opposite direction on free expression, decreeing that all the news that’s fit to print must serve the party’s interests, which are often not fit at all. This is especially troubling given China’s reaction to an international tribunal ruling earlier this month that its claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea, one of the world’s great trading oceans, have no merit. Now more than ever, 1.3 billion Chinese need to know what misbehavior is planned in their name.

Even in America, free speech is sometimes honored in the breach. Among the 19,000 emails released by WikiLeaks revealing how the Democratic National Committee schemed to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, were messages coordinating favorable news coverage with The Washington Post. Covering the news is a business, not a popularity contest, and reporters must summon courage to face censure and worse when they anger the authorities, which they invariably will. When lapdog journalists allow themselves to be used as tools of the powerful, they have chosen fiction over fact. That’s not worth anybody’s nickel (or dollar).



Click to Read More

Click to Hide