5-3-2013By Christopher Plummer
A. Whitney Ellsworth Fellow
Last week, a court in Istanbul sentenced Ali Örnek, foreign news editor of the Communist daily newspaper, Sol, to 14 months in prison for “publicly insulting the president.” The conviction stemmed from comments Örnek made nearly three years ago, when he said that graduates from a prominent university would face lives of bribery, unemployment, and favoritism.
Though Örnek was given prison time, the court suspended that sentence on the condition that he not publish any other work similarly critical of the regime. So this sentence amounts to censorship.
Turkey’s blasphemy laws also pose a threat to free expression. Ten days before Örnek was convicted, a prominent pianist and composer, Fazil Say, was also handed a suspended sentence for comments he posted on Twitter that were deemed denigrating to Islam. Turkish officials have cemented their country’s reputation as one where the human rights of journalists, artists, and writers are violable.
On May 16th, President Obama will welcome Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to Washington, D.C. As the leaders meet to discuss their geo-political alliance, President Obama should raise U.S. concerns about the clampdown on free speech.