In the wake of the AKP losing its majority in the Turkish elections and the uncertainty of what new government will emerge, I thought it timely to revisit an article I wrote in January for publication in the independent Turkish newspaper, Zaman. I believe the matter of freedom of the press to be very important as we follow the internal debate within Turkey, as we hope for that nation’s future, and as we look more broadly at political and social discourse in the US and to the rest of the world. The text of that original article follows:
Freedom of press is about far more than the right of members of the media to investigate and write about whatever they like: freedom of the press is central to creating what Rev Dr Martin Luther King called “The Beloved Community”; freedom of the press is about a choice between living a life of love and happiness, and living a life of fear.
Loss of a free press not only drives fear, but it also comes from fear. Turkish government leaders are clamping down on the press because they are afraid: they fear loss of office, loss of power, loss of money and loss of freedom. These fears are real and understandable, but surely there are greater fears: intangibly they should surely fear what they are becoming, what is happening to their minds and their souls; and tangibly, I’d think they would fear the escalating likelihood that they are creating long term security, safety, and quality of life problems for a growing group of their friends and family. I challenge those who are currently suppressing the press in Turkey to look with honesty at themselves and the consequences of their actions.
I also challenge the ordinary people of world and of Turkey to look closely at their fear and to recognize that it might not be what it seems.
There are many brave public figures standing up for freedom of the press in Turkey, but it is not the bravery of the few that will save Turkish freedom of the press; rather it is recognition by the many, including those who live in the USA as well as European and other affluent nations, of what is at stake. And the many have far more to lose than the few.
Fear is often obvious. Turkish political leaders’ fear of being locked up or hurt or losing possessions is obvious. But our fear as ordinary people is often not obvious. And we are good at hiding it from ourselves – particularly when paying attention to our fear would cause us to recognize poor motives and conflicts. I believe that loss of press freedom is often accompanied by such fear, often masked under the delusion that a free press is not such a big deal.
This is wrong.
Turning to the US for a moment, our press has been centralized in a handful of massive corporations to the extent that, for practical purposes, it is driven by the narrow economic interests of the owners of large corporations. Ironically a major economic driver of media consumption is promoting just the kind of fear that allows us to accept loss of freedom of the press. I am talking about the middle-class, complacent fear of loss of lifestyle. I am talking about the complacent fear that coverage of plane crashes in the ocean, of school shootings, of acts of terror and of tragedies affecting “families just like mine” stimulates. It is a drug that both keeps us consuming and stops us from reacting. I’m talking about the kind of fear that leads us to forsake learning what we need about the world to allow us to live real, human lives, driven by love and compassion and hope, and instead puts us in a place where we are driven by fear. Ironically the economic miracle of Turkey may be the greatest enemy of freedom of the press in Turkey, for the new middle class is prone to just this kind of fear, and the messages accompanying suppression of the press in Turkey are designed to feed this response.
There are many brave public figures standing up for freedom of the press in Turkey, but unless a recognition of what is happening and what is at stake spreads, I fear the suppressors may prevail. Unless the everyday, ordinary middle-class person in Turkey and elsewhere in the world recognizes that surrendering control of the media to a small elite perpetrates separation, division, and a climate of fear; unless we all recognize that freedom of religion, freedom to be happy, freedom to love and be loved are ultimately subordinated to freedom of the press, and unless we are willing to stand up for what we want our lives to be about, we are making a choice to allowing others to decide our lives will be about fear.
If you’d like to learn more about my writings and work, and find out how to get involved, visit the “A New Business Mindset” or the Join Me On A Pilgrimage pages of the website or sign up for the mailing list