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article imageCensorship in Turkey Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jul 12, 2013 in World
Istanbul - Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan receives support from powerful Fetullah Gulen and his media empire even as he censors the news in Turkey.
When the Turkish protests first broke out six weeks ago, the major Turkish television news stations did not cover scenes of police attacking protesters with water canon and pepper spray. One station showed a documentary about penguins, and the penguin became an ironic mascot for protesters.
However, as foreign news crews arrived from CNN, BBC, and many European countries, the Turkish news channels also began to cover what the rest of the world was seeing (often leaving out the most violent clashes between police and protesters).
It is interesting to note that Prime Minister Erdogan has a mentor and supporter who enjoys a vast power base from inside America. Fetullah Gulen emigrated to the United States a few years ago (amid charges that he tried to overthrow the secular Turkish government of the time), and he now prospers in his mansion outside of Philadelphia while broadcasting his Islamist television programs and newspapers throughout Turkey and the world. Today's Zaman, for example, is an English-written newspaper in Istanbul that always shows Islamist ideals and Erdogan in a good light while bashing opposite opinions.
Disguised as a "hizmet" (service) organization for young people, the Gulen Movement has definite Islamist roots and agendas and was recently investigated by the BBC. Whenever a Turkish reporter even touched the Gulen name, he ended up in a Turkish prison.
In fact, Turkey holds the world record for the highest number of journalists in prison and is closely watched by Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders. Both organizations are extremely concerned about police violence against journalists who cover the Turkish protests and the recent arrests of many journalists inside Turkey.
As protests against the Islamist rule of Erdogan renew throughout Turkey, one wonders just how well the media will cover them.
"It is dangerous to even mention Gulen's name in a negative way in Turkey," one Turkish man told me. "Turks know how much Gulen influences Erdogan."
Reporter's Update:
A day after I wrote this, Erdogan blocked Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo in Turkey for more than 24 hours as new protests happened in Istanbul. Reports are circulating that Erdogan's Ak Party followers were attacking journalists. Police were also beating journalists and arresting them. They are also arresting people who posted anti-Erdogan things on Facebook and Twitter. This trend of stopping information from getting out of Turkey is dangerous and makes me want to come back to America ASAP. If only my Turkish husband could accompany me . . .
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