He could be my grandson, that’s our age gap. I would be honored were he that. But it is enough to know him, as a friend and as a colleague in fighting the religious fascists that have a death-lock on the guts of this great secular nation. He’s the news director at the Ulusal television channel in Istanbul. He is now in danger. He faces a 13-year jail sentence for "excessively" doing his job as a journalist. Have you ever heard such nonsense? I haven’t. But such are conditions in Turkey under the AKP fascist government. Doing one’s job as a journalist is a common crime in today’s Turkey, if one is reporting unfavorable news. The jails are bursting with journalists, more so than any other country in the world. Such is the pathetic state of democracy in Turkey.
This is part of the widespread government reprisals now raging in Turkey. The government charges him with “exceeding the journalistic reflex” (“Habercilik refleksinin aşılması") A conflagration was raging that engulfed the nation with vicious police violence, gasings, beatings, blindings and deaths, and the expected, governmentally-approved “reflex” was zero? How stupid! But that irresponsible stupidity was achieved by the government controlled media who obediently telecasted documentaries on penguins, Adolph Hitler and everything else EXCEPT the Gezi Park events. But not Ulusal, and not Naci. Naci and his reporters were in the street, tirelessly doing their job, reporting the news, the news that was shaking the country and indeed the world. Should they have done any less? Yes, says the government. Should they have done nothing, like the rest of the media? Yes, says the government. And now Naci faces thirteen years in the Turkish “gulag.”
I first met Naci five years ago. I had written a letter to the new American president, Barack Obama, on 20 January 2009. I felt that America’s blind and enthusiastic support for the Erdoğan government was heading toward disaster. Naci was then at Aydinlik magazine. He heard about the letter. He thought it newsworthy. He tracked me down via internet, the university where my wife taught, my wife;s colleagues, and eventually a telephone call to my wife who was at the hospital where I was recovering from knee surgery. Two days later I was home and returned Naci’s call. He was surprised that I had called so promptly. Usually they don’t return calls for an interview, he said.
That was the beginning of my relationship with this dedicated young journalist, Naci Eriş. He had a tight deadline on his article. He worked on its translation late into the evenings. He always seemed to be at the office. He made his deadline. His journalistic “reflexes” were fantastic. Later, we did a television interview. If there is any person in Turkey who deserves an award for inspired diligence over and above the call of duty as a journalist it is Naci Eriş. He continues to give us all, including the fascist government, lessons in responsible, democratic journalism. And that's why the fascists want him sent to prison for thirteen years.