I’ve got a lot of respect for Vice News. Its reporting is sharp, courageous, and provocative. It is fresh and youthful, hip without being gormlessly cool, with a no-bullshit-accepted attitude towards authority reminiscent of the best of the 60s and 70s underground press. But even if I had no respect for it all however, I would have nothing but contempt for the bizarre and laughable decision of the Turkish authorities to charge Vice journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury on charges of ‘engaging in terrorist activity’ on behalf of Daesh/Islamic State.
This decision is laughable only for its grotesque absurdity. Few governments have done more to facilitate the rise of Daesh than the conspirators in Recep Erdogan’s gangster-like Turkish ‘Deep State.’ But Turkey is one of those many authoritarian governments with which we have become so depressingly familiar with in recent years, that is willing to use even the most ridiculous and tendentious definitions of ‘terrorism’ to shut down individuals and organizations that it doesn’t like.
The real reason for the arrests of the two Vice journalists appears to be the fact that they were filming clashes between Turkish police and supporters of the PKK – an organization that the Turkish government also regards as terrorist. Faced with Kurdish successes against Islamic State in Syria, Turkey has begun to reopen the war against the PKK – and appears to have done a carte blanche to do so by the US in exchange for lukewarm Turkish participation in the war against Islamic State.
Everything that Erdogan does suggests that he is far more concerned with suppressing the Kurds than he is with taking on Islamic State – or allowing Syrian Kurds to do so. For this reason Turkey clearly didn’t want two Western journalists roaming round Diyarbakir investigating its treatment of the Kurds. This February, a prosecutor in Diyarbakır indicted Dutch freelance journalist and blogger Fréderike Geerdink for ‘making propaganda’ for the (PKK) and Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) via social media.
Now the Turkish authorities have embarrassed themselves with these nonsensical charges. Of course state repression in Turkey isn’t limited to Western journalists; Turkish journalists have also been subject to Erdogan’s authoritarian drift in recent years. But like the Egyptian government’s equally absurd prosecutions of Al-Jazeera journalists that were upheld this week, Turkey’s willingness to arrest foreign journalists even at the risk of incurring negative publicity is an indication that isn’t really too bothered about its consequences in the outside world.
Like al-Sisi’s regime in Egypt, Turkey behaves like this because it wants to, and also because it can. It is confident and arrogant enough to believe that on an official level at least, its allies are not going to change course because a few journalists are locked up, as long as it remains onside in the latest ‘war on terror.’
So I don’t expect the British government to raise much of a fuss about this, but the rest of us should, not only because the charges are so blatantly and ludicrously fake, but because Erdogan’s government is a sinister dictatorship-in-waiting that is prepared to plunge Turkey into a new round of war in order to remain in power, and it needs to be stopped before it does any more damage than it has done already.