I had the rather surprising encounter with press censorship here in North Cyprus recently. We get two newspapers, The Cyprus Star, with headquarters in Turkey, and Cyprus Today which is published on this island.
When the protests erupted across Turkey recently, reading The Cyprus Star was like reading a press release from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s office. It was surreal. The Cyprus Today edition covered events in Turkey in far more detail, and with an independent viewpoint.
It reminded me that press censorship exists in Turkey, however much Erdogan tries to present his nation as democratic, and Turkey has one of the highest rates of imprisonment of journalists in the world.
One of the reports in Cyprus Today read:
“At least several thousand people lived together for more than two weeks in Gezi Park in central Istanbul, trying to protect the old trees from being cut down and protesting against the government project of changing the whole area into a huge shopping mall.
Between police strikes they setup a well-organised commune with its own 5,000-volume library, online radio station, well-supplied kitchen and a medical point where volunteer doctors treated patients for free.
Thousands of Istanbulians kept on visiting the park daily, many bringing with them food, blankets, medical supplies and many other items needed by protestors to survive in the park.
There were older women, called “aunties” by protesters, helping out in the kitchen which, at its peak, would prepare meals for tens of thousands of people; volunteer street cleaners who in the professional lives were academics; and lots of students sitting in front of their tents, studying for forthcoming exams.
There were Kurds, Kemalists, Alevis, Black Sea Turks, feminists, and gay and transgender people, all together in the park. They practised yoga, danced and sang, painted, created impromptu street theatre performances, gave lectures and took part in discussions…”
Another person who’d been at the Gezi park protest said:
“…..The solidarity was incredible. Never in my life have I seen such caring and supportive gestures among complete strangers. This gives [me] hope that another world is possible”.
I thought I’d reprint this here because media restrictions in Turkey are so strict, even though Erdogan is unable to control social media, much to his annoyance and anger, a sign of a real control freak.
If you are able, please circulate this information so that people in Turkey who want respect, the right of free speech, the right of assembly and separation of public from private life can get their voice heard as widely as possible.