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Report from a Turkish journalist: One more ordinary day with Charlie Hebdo

Ali Bolat:

One more ordinary day in Turkey… The judge must have said to himself like that. Because for a long time, lawyers and judges in Turkey selected by Erdogan deal primarily with files related to social media. After the Gezi Park protests, social media became the main focus of Erdogan because he saw people getting organized on social media during the protests and he was very scared. The activists, who turned into reporters in social media, succeeded in drawing public attention to the protests that the media deemed not worth reporting on.

I was one of them. I was one of the 10 millions of people who protested against Erdogan every day and used my twitter account as a kind of newspaper. Because I studied journalism and the Gezi protests in my professional opinion actually anounced media’s death. Later I wrote a book about those days. And even later I made the most difficult decision in my life – I left my country because I was afraid it has got dangerous for me and other people who appreciate freedom of thought and expression.

Three weeks ago, Turkey’s most important agenda was Charlie Hebdo‘s publishing caricatures. The publication of caricatures about Mohammed and then Erdogan came to the rescue of Erdogan, who was looking for an opportunity to change the agenda. Because the economy had been going down and Erdogan could say “look, there is a bird there.” And that bird’s name was Charlie Hebdo.

The main agenda of our media, which could not report on any subject other than Erdogan’s order, was the Erdogan caricature of Charlie Hebdo. Many ministers and parliament members, spokespersons, supporters of Erdogan were attacking the magazine. And of course the media was just reporting this. After seeing the Charlie Hebdo hashtag on Twitter, I looked through almost all the media and tried to understand what happened.

And guess what I saw: Even those who condemned the caricature, supporters of Erdogan, as well as the views of celebrities were in the media, but there were no news about the caricatures themselves and what was in it. There was just written: the caricature that humiliated Erdogan!

As a journalist I was very ashamed about this. Journalism has five basic questions: who, when, how, where and what. And the news about Charlie Hebdo did not answer the question „what?“ And I just tweeted it with this note: “Hebdo’s Erdogan caricature for those who are curious. There are related news everywhere, but not caricature itself.” It was my journalistic reflex. But Erdogan’s lawyer and the judge didn’t think so.

Last week I received an e-mail from Twitter. In this mail, it was written that Erdogan’s lawyer applied to the court about 13 accounts sharing the caricature, including my tweet.

And the decission was: The tweet degraded and insulted the Republic of Turkey’s institutions and organs and targeted with insulting and derogatory picture the President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN. It has been requested that a decision be made to block access, since shares were made, etc.


That is all. We humiliated Erdogan by sharing Charlie Hebdo’s caricature.

Yes, it was another ordinary day in Turkey.
But for me, this day was definitely not ordinary. I will not accept that they want to silence us, and I will fight as long as I can for the freedom of expression.

Because I know that keeping silence and no fighting makes things „ordinary“.

Bad news for Erdoğan: My twitter account is still there and I will not delete my tweet. Sorry!

Author is a journalist who left Turkey in 2016 after the Gezi protests and was seeking for asylum in Europe. The current state of his application is denied.

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