At the joint press conference with President Erdogan, U.S. President Trump’s teasing of a Turkish columnist, Hilal Kaplan, became a topic on Twitter last week.
True, her question was not a question, but rather a reflection of the official stance of the government.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
But I refuse that these people are presented as “journalists” from Turkey.
Hilal Kaplan herself was Erdoğan’s speech writer. Allegedly, the Sabah columnist also is part of a propaganda group called the “Pelikans,” financed directly by Erdoğan’s son-in-law, the Minister of Finance Berat Albayrak. The Pelikans are a part of the power struggle within the AKP.
Most probably, this is no secret for the White House and President Trump.
But instead of concentrating on Kaplan’s question and ambitious career, maybe it’s more appropriate to focus on where the real journalists are.
Or why they are not present at these press conferences.
While Trump asked for “friendly journalists,” adding that “there aren’t too many of them around,” Senator Graham was heard saying, “There aren’t any others left.”
Graham was obviously referring to the dire press freedom situation in Turkey. But I think this remark is unfair to journalists who still are trying to do their jobs correctly.
If anyone is still interested in whether there are any journalists left in Turkey, I can share two recent examples.
Canan Coşkun and Kazım Kızıl were taken under custody while they were covering the unsolved death of an 11-year-old girl, Rabia Naz. The father was detained as well.
While there is strong evidence pointing to murder, the government, police and local administration have been collectively covering up the case for a year. A citizen journalist, Metin Cihan, who was adamant about Rabia’s case, had to leave the country for his own safety a few months ago.
Coşkun and Kızıl were released after two days in jail. All of their equipment was seized. And since they have a court order now, they are not free to travel outside the country.
A few days ago, two young female journalists, Ruken Demir and Melike Aydın, were arrested. Both were working for pro-Kurdish news agencies.
These are only two very recent examples of what happens here to journalists.
So when referring to journalists from Turkey, at least do not forget about the real ones who are jailed, sentenced, fined, harassed, sacked, and financially and socially immobilized.