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Media Oppression and the Case of Mehmet Kamış: A Reflection on Authoritarian Regimes Past and Present

You might have read the news; Turkish journalist Mehmet Kamış was arrested.

This adds another violation to the regime’s record in terms of human rights, rights, and freedoms. Of course, we are saddened but not surprised, as the Erdoğan government must continue their policy of destroying anyone who is not one of them to sustain their existence.

Let me give a few examples, but I am sure most are already known.

The Nazi regime tightly controlled the media. Joseph Goebbels, head of the Ministry of Propaganda, had complete control over the media. Radio broadcasts, cinema, and print media were used to spread Nazi ideology and manipulate the public. Journalists were forced to produce news supporting the policies of the Nazi Party. Otherwise, they faced censorship, arrest, or even harsher penalties.

During Stalin’s era, the media was completely under state control. Newspapers like Pravda and Izvestia were used as publications reflecting the official views of the Soviet government. Journalists could not question state policies and were only allowed to publish government-approved information. Many journalists and writers were labeled as “enemies” and faced questioning, exile, or execution.

image 24

In Fascist Italy under Mussolini, the media was state-controlled. Newspapers and radio broadcasts were used to propagate the Fascist Party. Journalists had to support the government’s official views, and independent or dissenting voices were silenced.

In today’s China, the media is still under the tight control of the Communist Party. The Party controls both traditional media and the internet, imposing censorship. Chinese journalists cannot criticize government policies and can only produce news supporting the official party line. Otherwise, they risk arrest or imprisonment.

In today’s North Korea, the media is one of the most tightly controlled in the world. All news sources are controlled by the state and are used to praise the policies of leader Kim Jong-un and ideologically educate the public. Access to foreign media content is almost entirely banned, and journalists can only publish state-approved news.

As in every period of history, totalitarian regimes today also oppress artists, journalists, and intellectuals. Numerous examples can be given, from Germany to Russia, Italy to China, Middle Eastern countries to the Turkic Republics.

Looking closely at Putin’s Russia; many major media outlets in Russia are directly or indirectly controlled by the state. This is especially evident in national television channels, where the news often reflects the views of the Kremlin.

State-controlled media typically publish content that supports the government’s policies and denigrates the opposition, playing a significant role in shaping public perception.

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Independent journalism, as in many dictatorships, is a challenging field in Russia. Independent media face financial pressures, censorship, and restrictions on publishing non-governmental content.

Journalists and media organizations face various sanctions if they publish news displeasing to the state. These sanctions include fines, broadcasting bans, and even imprisonment.

The Russian government has increased its control over the internet and social media. Various laws allow the state to more tightly monitor internet content and block sites labeled as “undesirable.”

This situation raises serious concerns about freedom of expression and access to information.

In Russia, journalists, especially when addressing sensitive issues like corruption and human rights abuses, face threats and physical violence. Let’s remember that there have been cases where journalists were murdered or disappeared.

On the other hand, the Russian government has made and continues to make various legal regulations to maintain control over the media. These include broad and vaguely defined crimes such as “extremism” and “terrorism.” Do I need to say that such laws facilitate the government’s silencing of dissenting voices?

As the Erdoğan government turned its course away from democracy towards a Central Asian model of a “One-Man” regime, one of its first actions was to pounce on the media. First, they created their media. After taking control of some major media organs with illicit money from businessmen they nurtured, they turned to the opposition media. The biggest obstacle for Erdoğan was undoubtedly the influential and acceptable media organizations known for their religiousness but not political Islamism. When they seized media organizations like Zaman Newspaper, Samanyolu TV, and İpek Media Group, there was no talk of a coup.

And the current situation. This news was published yesterday:

“CHP Eskişehir Deputy Utku Çakırözer announced RTÜK’s 11-month penalty report covering January to November in the TBMM General Assembly. According to Çakırözer, RTÜK imposed a total fine of 22 million TL on 7 channels in 11 months due to their criticism-focused news. Utku Çakırözer listed the penalties given to television channels by RTÜK as follows: In its meeting last week, RTÜK heavily fined TELE1, Halk TV, Flash News, KRT, and FOX. When you look at the reasons for the penalties: What is it, the low pension salaries, the non-receipt of bonuses… In the first 11 months of the year, a total of 49 sanctions were imposed on Halk TV, FOX, TELE 1, Habertürk, Flash News, KRT, and TV5. The total amount of fines exceeded 22 million lira.”

Erdoğan now owns more than 95% of the country’s media. He even makes propaganda on children’s channels. In this respect, he is a close follower of other dictators like Putin.

Let me give you a very striking example…

80 years ago (July 19, 1937), the National Socialist propaganda exhibition “Degenerate (or degenerative) Art” (German: Entartete Kunst) started in Munich. This exhibition was an important expression of a cultural policy that denigrated free art. Intellectuals, journalists, and artists who did not support the regime were systematically marginalized and persecuted. The whereabouts of many confiscated art pieces from that period are still unknown today.

Adolf Ziegler, Hitler’s favorite and president of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts, said at the opening of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition in the Munich Hofgarten gallery building initiated by Reich propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels in July 1937: “You see this madness, insolence, incompetence, and degeneration around us.”

The Munich exhibition featured over 700 works by more than 120 artists. The exhibited pieces were accompanied by derogatory writings under the Nazi slogan of “Jewish-Bolshevik art,” fueling antisemitic and anti-communist prejudices.

I would like to turn to my 35-year-old friend and colleague, Mehmet Kamış.

A few articles ago, I wrote something about “Illegal man kidnapping” due to the Batman movie.

Kamis

As you know, the palace media glorifies Erdoğan’s intelligence, which captures innocent people, teachers, women, and patients. As expected, they presented Mehmet’s news in the same way.

I have not heard them “package,” to use their term, a real terrorist. Their power is only enough for poor teachers. They swallow their tongues against ISIS brutes who burn Turkish soldiers alive. Those who are incapable of retrieving top-level MİT executives “packaged” by the PKK, throw people who have never carried a nail clipper in their lives into prison with lies about “capturing terrorists.”

Let me first state that I, a writer who rarely pens political articles, generally lean towards art and current affairs.

In 2014-15, I was approached numerous times with job offers from the ruling media. If they made such exorbitant offers to an ordinary pen like me, I can only imagine what they must have offered and been rejected by prominent figures like Mehmet Kamış.

I am sure of this.

With the hatred and grudge of this, some ‘pool’ soldiers spewed venom at Mehmet Kamış. Yet Mehmet has never engaged in any activity other than journalism throughout his life.

Let me tell you; 35 years ago, when we were both single reporters, I met Mehmet Kamış… It was the era of analog cameras. Conditions were primitive and difficult. Not everyone had a quality camera. Mehmet Kamış had saved up scholarships and earnings for several years and bought a camera better than all of ours, teaching us photography.

We had the chance to work together from time to time over the years. We worked together for years at Aksiyon or Zaman. He was not an ordinary journalist. Especially, he was an intellectual with much more sophisticated aesthetics than a political Islamist journalist. Even when he was a newspaper executive, he never gave up photography. I was amazed to see that the photojournalist inside him was still young and lively.

On the other hand, he had intellectual depth far beyond that of an ordinary journalist. We could sit down and talk for hours about a newly released music album, a theater play, or a movie.

Such a bright colleague and good person is being applauded for being arrested by the ruling media with nonsense of “terrorist, traitor.”

This period will surely pass. But this dark mark written by history will always be slapped in the face of a despicable crowd, be assured.

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