Reactions to the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo underscore deep divisions in Turkish society where some say freedom of the press and freedom to mock are under attack.
A cartoonist for a Turkish newspaper Daily Hürriyet, Latif Demirci, cartoonist gives his own take on the deadly Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine.
When it came to the events in Paris. the Turkish reactions revealed hidden fault lines. Officially, there was widespread condemnation for the attack. Yet a certain minority of the 99% Muslim nation seemed to suggest that the cartoonists had brought it upon themselves for mocking the prophet Mohammed.
According to an earlier Hürriyet article:
Two Islamist newspapers in Turkey have drawn ire on social media with their headlines that “justified” the deadly attack on a French satirical newspaper.
Facebook pages for one of the two newspapers had supportive comments from its readers. One particular comment expressed the hope the attackers would "continue [to kill] infidels" and gave "thanks to those who did it.”
Türkiye, another newspaper close to the Turkish government, chose the headline: “Attack on the magazine that insulted our Prophet.”
The headlines provoked a wave of public condemnation on Twitter. Many Turks accused the editors of the newspapers of “justifying a terror attack,”
According to Al-Monitor, one cartoonist in Turkey took this opportunity to poke a stick in the eye of the Turkish president, Erdogan.
The well-known cartoonist Musa Kart, who has been sued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan several times, drew a searing cartoon with a character resembling Erdogan saying, “I condemn the attack. A 10-year prison sentence for those cartoonists would have been sufficient.”
The same Al-Monitor article also quoted another Turkish cartoonist, Semih Poroy who spoke of the local dangers that satirists face there.
“Cartoonists are without protection in Turkey. If freedom of speech is not guaranteed, some might even be inspired by the inhumane events of the Charlie Hebdo attack and try to repeat them.”
Even without the threat of violence, there's also the possibility of raising the hackles of the government. One cartoon published in Cumhuriyet, an opposition newspaper, sparked a legal action by the Turkish government prosecutors. The New York Times reported only a few days before the attack about the Turkish government battle against cartoon mockery.
Last year, cartoonist Kart was taken to court on charges of insulting the then prime minister and now president, Erdogan, for violating the privacy of an ongoing investigation and committing libel.
"Mr. Kart was acquitted in October, leaving him free, for the moment — Mr. Erdogan’s lawyer has appealed the decision — to keep challenging authority with his caricatures of Turkey’s rich and powerful."
Last month the Turkish president declared that “nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey." He also said:
"the press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries"
His critics quickly pointed out that Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in our 2014 Press Freedom Index. Johann Bihr, a spokesman from Reporters Without Borders, told the UK Independent:
"Its once vibrant and diverse media environment is narrowing by the day...Dozens of journalists that were jailed for years have been granted conditional release in 2014, but they are still facing jail terms if they are declared guilty, and more media workers are prosecuted in politically motivated trials.
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Following the bloody end of the Parisian attacks yesterday, the Turkish president phoned Francois Hollande, to extend condolences over the shooting and subsequent events that killed more than a dozen civilians.
How the Reactions to #CharlieHebdo Events Reveal Fault Lines in Turkey http://t.co/zKU5F68enN #JeSuisCharlie— Ed Goff- Nomad (@ANomadicView) January 10, 2015