Podcast: Killing the Watchdog

Episode produced by Taylor Moore, American University Dean’s Intern at the First Amendment Center

How quickly can a despotic government dismantle a free press?  In this episode of The First Five, we talk to Abdulhamit Bilici, former editor-in-chief of the largest newspaper in Turkey, now living in exile after President Erdogan’s takeover of the press and imprisonment of over 150 journalists.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected the 12th president of the Republic of Turkey on August 10, 2014. During his presidency he has put more more journalists in jail than any other nation, claiming that they are not journalists but terrorists. An estimated 150 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey and more than 2,500 have lost their jobs and had their press cards revoked. These actions were in the wake of a failed coup attempt in 2016. Since then, Erdogan has not only ordered the capture of individuals in the media but also academics, police, lawyers and judges.

In this episode of The First Five, Gene Policinski talks to Abdulhamit Bilici, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman, and Emre Celik, president of the Rumi Forum, an organization which promotes interfaith dialogue and intercultural understanding. They discussed the current circumstances in Turkey under President Erdogan and shared their opinions on his destruction of the free media.

BBC News: “Zaman newspaper: Defiant last edition as Turkey police raid”

“Imagine that the New York Times has been shut down and the editor-in-chief of the New York Times is in exile in Germany. That is my situation, because I was editor-in-chief of the largest newspaper in Turkey, five months before the coup.”

– Abdulhamit Bilici


Gene Policinski is the Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum Institute.


To learn more about the state of journalism in Turkey under Erdogan please visit this website created by the Committee to Protect Journalists.


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