Maureen Freely, the translator for among others Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, writes in the (August 13th) NY Times book review about Turkish writers on trial:

To date, there have been more than 60 cases brought against [Turkish] novelists, publishers, journalists, scholars, politicians and cartoonists. Hrant Dink, the editor of the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, currently has two cases against him open. The publisher Fatih Tas is on trial for publishing a book (by the political scientist John Tirman of M.I.T.) that takes a critical look at the Turkish Army. Two eminent professors faced charges for saying, in a never-published government-commissioned report, that Turkey?s treatment of its minorities fell short of European standards, while the magazine Penguen and one of its cartoonists were prosecuted for portraying the prime minister as a kitten and an elephant, among other animals.

So far, no one has been sent to prison. Some defendants have been acquitted; others, like Pamuk, have seen their cases dropped on technicalities, while many have been given suspended sentences that were then converted to fines. But to assume that writers have nothing to fear is to underestimate the forces behind these prosecutions.

It is still not clear how Article 301 found its way into the new penal code, but the Unity of Jurists, an ultranationalist lawyers group, is behind most of the high-profile prosecutions. Its main spokesman is a lawyer named Kemal Kerincsiz. His rabidly xenophobic sound bites have turned him into a national celebrity, and his words are echoed by the thugs who have taunted, assaulted and insulted defendants and observers in the corridors of the courthouses, denouncing them as traitors and ?missionary children? (a reference to the foreign schools many of the defendants attended) and spouting racist slogans that call to mind Berlin in 1935, while the riot police look on. …

This is not a tug of war between East and West as the West likes to understand it: while some of Turkey?s new ultranationalists are Islamists, most are old-guard, die-hard secularists. The battle is about democracy, with supporters of European Union membership hoping for peaceful change and opponents hoping for a return to authoritarian rule.

And while the context and degree are vastly different, are there not glimmers of such authoritarian tendencies in some of the lynch mob turn-it-on, turn-it-off threats against the NYT and other media for publishing the NSA domestic surveillance and Swift stories? For daring to write, as the WP‘s Dana Priest has done about extraordinary renditions? Heard anyone here make an argument about why such stories shouldn’t be told, can’t be told?

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