The Day After Turkey Votes for Autocracy

The referendum in Turkey is dramatically distorted by the crackdown on the media.

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“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” George Orwell – 1984

George Orwell would have been sadly satisfied to see how his novel 1984 has come to life in Turkey. The referendum on April 16th can never be accepted as a free vote. Human rights are suspended in a seemingly permanent state of emergency, arbitrary arrests, and state manipulation of the masses after the destruction of the free media.

The Turkish people voted under duress, and at least 44 percent of the voting public realised it. They are about to be dragged further into the consequences of autocracy; fear of the knock on the door at night; censorship and paranoia. In short, being at the whims of Erdogan and the generations of presidents who follow. There’s little doubt they will be carbon copies of the man who single-handedly reversed decades of democratic progress in Turkey.

178 media outlets have been shut down under Erdogan. He and the AKP party now control the rest through fear and censorship. 141 journalists are behind bars. 4811 academics were fired from their jobs. 47,155 people have been arrested without evidence. 125,485 civil servants were dismissed from their jobs. (Source: @politicoryan).

The death penalty is Erdogan’s first priority under his new powers. This is a man who prosecutes journalists and satirists, academics, police, judges, lawyers – anyone who displeases him. Once he has the ultimate power – the death penalty – he can do what he wants. Everyone will fear him and his dictatorial laws. Yes, there are two rounds of elections he has to pass, but since he controls the media, what hope does the opposition have of making its case in a fair election?

It is now more important than ever to limit Turkey’s influence over Cyprus. Our democracy is our greatest asset, along with our European Union membership. The free media in Cyprus must resist any attempts to control it by any state, particularly Turkey’s.

The point has been made that Cyprus is also a presidential democracy, but the fact is that our democracy has very clearly marked separation of powers. It’s a healthy democracy in the sense that there is complete freedom of speech and expression, and no repression by the authorities. The media is pluralistic and free.

The media always was and always will be the front line of defence against dictatorship. Even if our colleagues in Turkey are shut down and censored, arrested and tortured, they must know that we are in full sympathy with them and support their fight to return to media pluralism and freedom.

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