FFresh from a visit to Germany where he angered Chancellor Merkel by urging German Turks to remain loyal to their native land, Prime Minister Erdogan defended his government’s decision to end the ban on wearing headscarfs in universities. He blasted secular newspapers for publishing photographs of scantily dressed women. “What discrimination have you seen so far from us? Aren’t you the ones who print pictures of naked women on your pages every day against this society’s moral values? Have you ever seen anyone obstruct you? Have we interfered wtih that?” Some secularist newspapers are upset at the angry tone of the prime minister, but Erdogan defended his right to speak in forceful terms.
Ertugrul Ozkok, editor-in-chief of Hurriyet, has become a main focus of Erdogan’s anger. “The fierce manner of Erdogan scares me,” said Ozkok. “If a prime minister begins to talk to media in this way in a society, there comes an end not optimistic.” Mr. Ozkok is absolutely correct. A prime minister must learn to accept criticism and has a right to respond to it, but the tone must be measured and aware that government has powers which can end freedom of the press. If Erdogan does not curb his anger, he will doom Turkey’s chance to enter the European Union.
There is something dangerous when a government official announces that printing pictures of scantily dressed women violates “society’s values.” Obviously, some people in Turkish society want to see such pictures. A majority might have certain values, but what about the right of a minority which has differing values?