Two journalists were sentenced to two years in prison on April 28 for republishing in their columns a cover of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring an image of the Prophet Muhammad.
The two journalists are Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya of secular newspaper Cumhuriyet, which means “Republic.” According to the prosecutor and the court, they were guilty of “spreading hate.” The reason? They published the famous Charlie Hebdo cartoons in their newspaper.
Of course, they only did so to show their support for the poor cartoonists who were butchered in broad daylight last year in France, but according to the current Turkish authorities, supporting freedom of speech is now akin to “spreading hate.”
Let that sink in: resisting the hate radical Muslims feel for non-Muslims is now considered hate speech in Turkey.
You’d laugh if it wasn’t so incredibly sad.
When these journalists published the cartoons in their columns, I actually went out and bought a copy of Cumhuriyet, just to show my support for them. I normally don’t read that paper. Sadly, more than 1200 Turks, among them President Erdoğan and two of his daughters, responded in a completely different manner: they urged the Justice Department to sue them because they supposedly insulted Muslims and the Islamic religion, and spread hatred about Muslims. And that in a country where 99% of the population are Muslim. How does that even work?
As a result, we can conclude that it’s now officially illegal in Turkey to a) criticize the president and b) say something even remotely negative about Islam. That’s bad enough, but what makes it even worse is that the European Union continues to hold accession talks with Turkey. Brussels is even preparing visa-free travel for Turks in the EU from June onward.