Turkey, once described as “baffling”, has now become “unintelligible”.
Looking from outside, it is hard to fathom how Turkey’s leaders could remain so oblivious to the fact that their policies are turning dangerously counterproductive.
With the arrest of the German Die Welt newspaper correspondent Deniz Yucel, the total number of journalists in jail has reached 155.
Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the arrest of dual German-Turkish citizen Yucel as a “disproportionately harsh” measure.
Reactions from other German politicians and media freedom defenders were less diplomatic. There were several demonstrations calling for Yucel’s release across Germany.
German-Turkish relations have already been strained after a spying scandal involving Turkish imams, affiliated with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB).
Since the failed coup on 15 July last year, there has been a flood of asylum requests to Germany by Turkish diplomats and military personnel.
After Deniz Yucel’s arrest, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador, in another sign of a brewing diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
The consequences of the ongoing crackdown on media go beyond stifling of freedom of expression.
Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights had agreed to give priority treatment to applications by jailed Turkish writers and journalists Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Sahin Alpay, Murat Aksoy and Atilla Tas.
If the Court rules that they should be freed, this would set a precedent for several other journalists in pre-trial detention in Turkey.
Turkey may have already been looking for a way out of its obligations to the Council of Europe, if President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign rhetoric of reinstating the death penalty is anything to go by.
Bringing back capital punishment would also mean that Turkey’s membership application to the European Union would be automatically frozen.
It may well be one less headache during the process of establishing Mr. Erdogan’s direct rule, but it will have long term economic and political consequences for the country.
The latest controversy over a report in the daily Hurriyet, based on a briefing by a senior military official, is another example of a counterproductive action by Turkish authorities.
The Hurriyet newspaper, the flagship daily of Dogan Media Group, was accused of pitting the military against the government.
President Erdogan called the newspaper “disrespectful” with a warning that they would “pay a heavy price”.
Despite publishing a groveling apology and sacking their veteran editor Sedat Ergin immediately, Dogan Group has suffered a drop of 10 percent in their shares. Pro-government voices in conventional and social media have already started calling for the paper to be put into administration.
Following a complaint by an academic, Mehmet Hakan Saglam of Istanbul University, a legal investigation against Hurriyet was launched.
It will be interesting to see whether this is another storm in a teacup to gather support for the “yes” campaign in the referendum or a more calculated step to silence one of Turkey’s biggest media groups.
Either way, it will not only add to the outrage internationally, it will also deepen the anxiety felt by investors at home and abroad.
This post is also available in: Turkish