Pantelis Boukalas PANTELIS BOUKALAS

Nothing but praise back home

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Politics, Turkey

The Turkish media showered their arrogantly aggressive president with praise in regard to his official two-day visit to Greece. Among the country’s political circles, meanwhile, just one lawmaker had something more than congratulations for Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his trip.

This is hardly surprising. On national issues, the Turks always put on an appearance of unity or at least willingness to temporarily put aside their differences. According to some unwritten law of foreign policy, moreover, the more in the wrong they are – consciously so – the more reconciled and provocative they appear.

This, however, is not the only thing that explains their show of unity. After all, who would really openly challenge Erdogan’s narrative of a triumph in the enemy’s camp? Who would even dare to mumble a negative word about a single aspect of the visit? Television broadcasters and newspapers have been gagged before for not showing the requisite enthusiasm for the president. (Freedom of the internet – its actual operation – depends on Erdogan’s mood on any particular day.) Journalists and politicians have been thrown into jail for much smaller transgressions, on the decision of a justice system so lauded for its independence.

This explains Erdogan’s purely scientific interest in the Greek justice system, which refuses to extradite the eight Turkish officers who sought asylum in Greece after last year’s attempted coup in Turkey.

In May, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists accused Turkey of subjecting journalists to white torture. Many were jailed because they were personally sued by the Turkish president, who is accustomed to that sort of thing. Indeed, one journalist for the newspaper Taraf has been sued by Erdogan 80 times. Eventually, the paper was just shut down and the suits didn’t reach 100. And this explains why Turkey comes third after China and Iran for violating freedom of the press.

In Greece, empathy for the media or the political system is a rare thing indeed. This is to be expected because we live in a democracy that is made better by criticism and a diversity of opinions. It would, of course, be good for our politicians’ credibility if for nothing else, if they remembered when they are in the opposition just one-tenth of what they preached when they were in government. For example, that when it comes to national issues, you don’t need to agree with everything without question, but you should at least think twice before launching barbs and accusations.

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