Once again, as readers well know, we at the Daily News face the specter of a state bent on our destruction. Once again, darkness threatens the basic tenets of democracy.
An instructive way to consider the stakes involved in a second arbitrary tax fine against the Doğan Group, the parent of this and six other newspapers in Turkey, is to hold up a map of our region.
Roughly in the middle of Europe, about at Vienna, the strength, independence and diversity of the media begins to fade. There’s life in the Polish press, and in that of Greece. But it grows increasingly grim after that. Journalists struggle in Ukraine, but fare better than their colleagues in Russia. Kiev, in fact, has become a de facto hub of Russian language media fleeing assaults on press freedom in Moscow.
Move south and east. Through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some courageous Web sites operate here but no truly free press. Move through Iran, toward the Gulf countries and sketch out the borders of the Arab states. You will find brave journalists in Beirut or Cairo, but you won’t find an institutional free press. Israel is an exception of sorts, with free expression for one segment of the population. You not find it in the Palestine territories. Move on further, through the states of Central Asia, into Afghanistan, and then down into Pakistan. Among the many things largely missing in all these places is a strong and vibrant press. Only when your finger arrives on India can you again make the case for the existence of a truly free press.
Against this portrait of a vast region bracketed by Vienna and New Delhi, we believe Turkey to be the Great Exception. Turkish journalists have faced many challenges, coups, censorship and all manner of oppression since a truly free and vibrant press began along with the birth of multi-party democracy in 1950. But in the main, through the Cold War, through the wars and turmoil of the last two decades, through economic turmoil at home and abroad, Turkey has fared well. That we are debating human rights, the so-called “Kurdish opening,” constitutional reform, reconciliation with Armenia, accession to the European Union and so many other once-taboo issues is testament to the commitment of many individuals, and many institutions, to free expression.
These are just some of the stakes. No reasonable person in Turkey doubts the real reason behind a $500 million fine levied against us in February and a further $2.5 billion penalty imposed this week and reported on Wednesday. We have failed to mind the edicts of an authoritarian mind-set.
“The power to tax is the power to destroy” is a maxim first uttered by American Chief Justice John Marshall in a 1819 tax case. We ask readers to think about that and to ponder for a moment the motives of the would-be destroyer and the full scope of just what is marked for destruction.