Dissent is not simply a right, it’s fundamentally a civic virtue

Far & Near column for the Hindustan Times, published 10 September, 2017

Ten years ago, a 17-year-old student called Ogun Samast walked up to journalist Hrant Dink outside the offices of his newspaper in Istanbul. Samast shot Dink in the back of the head three times. Dink was a member of Turkey’s small but resilient Armenian community, and he had been outspoken about the country’s failure to acknowledge the genocide of Armenians during World War I. His writing and activism had landed him in legal hot water. When he was killed, he was on trial for violating an article of the Turkish penal code, the supposed crime of “denigrating Turkishness”.

I recall the furore and tragedy surrounding Dink’s death quite vividly because he was also a contributor to (and friend of) the London-based international affairs magazine where I was working. The furniture of our little office had to be moved aside for a procession of TV crews to record our reactions to his death. Coming just months after the murder in Russia of Anna Politkovskaya — a journalist, human rights activist, and trenchant critic of Vladimir Putin — Dink’s assassination was strongly felt.

My editors were outraged that despite receiving waves of death threats, Dink had had not been extended the necessary protection. (In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights would rule that Turkey failed to guard Dink even though the government knew of plots against him.) The crime of his killing belonged not just to the murderer (a young far-Right ultra-nationalist), but to a society that condoned the intimidation of journalists and critics, the bullying and prosecution of dissent.

Read the rest of the piece on the Hindustan Times

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