Most Americans don’t follow the news from Turkey, especially with our election looming next week. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been cracking down on opposition throughout Turkey in the wake of a failed coup attempt a few months back, with tens of thousands of alleged coup collaborators either jailed or fired from their jobs. It seems that a failed coup is also a great excuse to get rid everyone Erdogan already didn’t like who weren’t involved with the coup as Erdogan has closed down virtually all of the media outlets that have been critical of him. The only opposition newspaper left, Cumhuriyet, was raided last week with their editors, their top writers and their editorial cartoonist thrown in jail.
To see that Erdogan’s purge extends well beyond those who were involved in the coup, look no farther then Musa Kart, the jailed editorial cartoonist for Cumhuriyet, who’s cartoons have enraged Erdogan for many years. Here’s an article from Cartoonists Rights Network (CRNI) about how Erdogan tried to put Musa in jail for nine years for the 2014 cartoon at the right that depicts corruption as a hologram of Erdogan looks away; the courts dismissed the case. Here’s an article from the Committee to Protect Journalists with a broader update on Erdogan’s recent press purges.
Musa’s 2005 cartoon of Erdogan as a cat tangled in strings produced a similar battle with an offended Erdogan, who clearly has a thin skin when it comes to cartoons. Musa was sentenced to prison, his penalty was reduced to a fine, and the courts later dismissed the fine.
Cartoonists around the world have drawn cartoons supporting Musa when he was arrested before and a new pitch for cartoons is coming from my buddies at Cartooning for Peace (CFP). I’ve posted the column from CFP below along with one of the cartoons supporting Musa from India’s Paresh Nath.
Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart detained by police along with journalists from opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet
From Cartooning for Peace
On Monday 31th October several members of staff from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have been detained by police following raids on their homes. These include editor in chief Murat Sabuncu, the paper’s lawyer and cartoonist Musa Kart.
His home was searched by police around 5am before he went to the police station for questioning, apparently with his lawyer. Musa is no stranger to harassment from the regime. In 2014, following the publication of one cartoon refering to a money laundering scandal involving many people close to Erdogan, cartoonist Musa Kart was facing a 9 years imprisonment. He was finally acquitted of the charges. As he left the building to surrender to police, Kart told reporters:
“How will they explain this to the world? I am being taken into custody for drawing cartoons.”
“I’ve been trying for years to turn what we’re living through in this country into cartoons. Now I feel like I’m living in one.”
On Tuesday 1st November hundreds of protestors camped overnight in protest at the Istanbul headquarters of Cumhuriyet – last symbol of the fight for freedom of speech in Turkey.
A statement from the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said those detained were suspected of “committing crimes” on behalf of the Gülen movement, accused by the government of masterminding the coup attempt in July.
The Turkish government has embarked upon a “purge without limits” according to Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders:
“Cumhuriyet is once again the target of persecution, another 15 media have been closed and there is hardly anyone left to cover this. (…) If Turkey does not stop using the state of emergency to kill off media freedom it will soon be too late. At this rate, media pluralism will be a distant memory before long. Are people sufficiently aware of the dramatic change taking place in this country, where no media outlet seems to be safe from this never-ending purge?”
This marks a new chapter in media and press persecution by the Turkish state. 170 media outlets had been shut down since the attempted coup and 105 journalists arrested. Authorities revoked the press accreditation of more than 700 journalists while thousands of journalists are unemployed.
Cartooning for Peace is starting a campaign to support cartoonists, journalists and freedom of speech in Turkey.
Cartoonists from all over the world, including members of Cartooning for Peace, are already sharing their drawings. See more of the cartoons in support of Musa here.
This one is by our own Paresh Nath of India. See more of Paresh’s cartoons here.