~ Submitted by Robert Kalantari
I don’t expect many people to know about this, but this past Wednesday, January 19, marked the 15the anniversary of journalist, intellectual, and human rights advocate Hrant Dink’s assassination in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hrant Dink was the editor-in-Chief of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos, which is still being published in Istanbul, Turkey. He was an advocate and champion of human rights, freedom of speech, equality, and democracy.
He was tried for “denigrating Turkish identity” and convicted of “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, stemming from a series of columns that he wrote in 2004 about the Armenian Genocide.
Despite many death threats, numerous physical assault attempts, and racist protests in front of his newspaper office, he continued to speak out and refused to leave his native country Turkey, which “failed to protect him, violating his right to life,” according to the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in 2010.
On January 19, 2007, he was assassinated in broad daylight, on the sidewalk in front of the Agos newspaper office.
Alarmingly, Turkey has only escalated its suppression of independent media and journalists over the past decade. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey ranks second after China in jailing journalists, and accounts for one-third of all journalists imprisoned around the world.
Now what this has to do with our town Bedford? I think a lot. When this happened, I said to myself this is sad and unjustified, but it is happening in Turkey, this will never happen here in our country. Now sadly, this is only one example of crimes committed towards journalists, and unfortunately, there are many other examples throughout the world.
Looking at what is happening in our country in the past few years, I am afraid to say that we are not far from seeing this happening in our country.
Today, many journalists and people from all walks of life are being threatened, some physically attacked when they speak their mind about an issue or while covering an event. We have seen reporters being attacked, physically, verbally, and being labeled as irresponsible, anti-government, racist, and so on. We have also seen discussions and publications being blocked when it does not fit the narrative of certain media entity.
And unfortunately, I have seen similar verbal attacks happening in our own town. I read some responses to letters and publications, including publications presented by some elected public officials in our local newspapers labeling the writer, irresponsible when they don’t agree with their views, and some, even demand that The Bedford Citizen not publish such letters. I am happy to say that this is not the case with our local newspaper, and I thank The Bedford Citizen for their work not censoring different views and publications presented by everyone.
To me, what is happening in this country is very dangerous, it reminds me of what happened to the editor of the newspaper Agos in Turkey 15 years ago. We all need to recognize this dangerous path we are on and do everything we can to support and allow freedom of speech and expression of views without censorship and hostility towards differing views.