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  • Author: Gonul Tol
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: For decades, Turkey’s conflict with its own Kurdish minority has hindered the country’s democratization. But neither Turkey’s democratization nor the Kurdish quest for political rights has occupied an important place in U.S. policy. Turkey’s democratic shortcomings have been ignored by U.S. administrations for the sake of greater geostrategic interests. In a similar fashion, Kurdish rights have been overlooked in the game of power politics. Today’s regional context, however, ties Turkish democracy and the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question to the U.S. security interests in the region. The United States must therefore pay closer attention to both. There is no doubt that most freedoms under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been dramatically curtailed. Opposition leaders continue to face arrest and prosecution. Authorities use anti-terror laws broadly against those who are critical of the government. Thousands of people—including minors, journalists, foreign journalists, human rights activists, and social media users—who exercise their right to freedom of expression face criminal prosecutions on trumped-up terrorism charges. The mainstream media are largely controlled by the government and routinely carry identical headlines. Most concerning of all, however, is the ongoing conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A string of clashes in the mainly Kurdish region between the PKK and Turkish security forces has killed thousands since the ceasefire broke down in 2015—including 464 civilians, 1,166 Turkish security personnel, and 2,544 PKK militants—and displaced 350,000 people[1]. Both the PKK and the Turkish state played a role in the destruction of major segments of Kurdish cities. The political ramifications of the fighting have been equally disastrous. The Turkish state response has largely criminalized Kurdish political expression. Hundreds of Kurdish news outlets have been shut down. Thousands of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) activists and dozens of Kurdish co-mayors and HDP parliamentarians remain in prison. The Turkish government has removed elected mayors in Kurdish regions and installed government-appointed trustees in all but a few of the 102 HDP-controlled municipalities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Democracy, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Donald Blinken
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The imminent return of Radio Free Europe service to Hungary is a new chapter in an old story, a case of history reinventing itself. Radio Free Europe was an indispensable resource during the Cold War. Its broadcasts were often the only truthful information available to people behind the Iron Curtain, countering their governments’ lies and propaganda. But with the fall of Communism and the advent of open, democratic political systems throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the need for Radio Free Europe ceased. At that time, its broadcast office in Munich was being shut down, and its radio archives could no longer be stored there. Officials planned to discard the trove of audio tapes and transcripts. But today, some 22 years after the return of the tapes, Hungary once again faces a serious free-press deficit: the Hungarian people now obtain their news from government-controlled or -monitored print and online sources. Radio Free Europe’s return to Hungary, therefore, could not come at a more necessary and important time.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Mass Media, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Media, Freedom of Press
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary, Central Europe