For weeks after the October 2 disappearance of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has behaved like the leader of a Western democracy: He feared there might have been a murder of the Saudi journalist, which Saudi officials later admitted; speaking loud and louder, he asked the Saudi authorities to bring the journalist’s killers to justice; he offered them a trial in Turkey, and asked for their extradition; he urged the House of Saud to find and hand over to justice those who may have ordered the murder. He also shared audio evidence of the murder with Western leaders. Yet Erdoğan’s public image in the more civilized parts of the world looks closer to that of the Saudi royals than to any Western leader. For that, he has can only himself to blame.
“Erdoğan championing the basic human rights of a journalist” sounds grossly oxymoronic. In its annual report in December, the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote:
“Turkey remains the world’s worst jailer for the second consecutive year, with 73 journalists behind bars, compared with 81 last year. Dozens more still face trial, and fresh arrests take place regularly”.
In Turkey, during the two-year state of emergency after a failed coup against Erdoğan’s government in July 2016, more than 100,000 people have been imprisoned, including academics, lawyers, journalists and opposition politicians. More than 50,000 people remain in prison, according to Amnesty International, and 100,000 have been purged from government service. The Vienna-based International Press Institute tweeted on Oct. 25: “Gruesome nature of #Khashoggi murder should not distract from #Turkey’s own persecution of journalists”.