Freedom of speech is a right that we hold very dear in the United States, however this right is not universal. Turkey has been called the “world’s biggest jailer of journalists” by Amnesty International. They earned this dubious honor by jailing Deniz Yücel. He is a Turkish-German journalist for “Die Welt,” a prominent newspaper in Germany.  This jailing has been condemned by the global community and it has been called an assault on the freedom of speech. Yücel was arrested after he reported on the hacking of the private emails of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and the son-in-law of the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This action by the Turkish government is in line with their tradition of media blackouts on the government’s affairs. This sort of censorship is a foreign concept to the people of the United States. Here we are incredibly fortunate for the ability to speak freely and to criticize those in power without the fear of repercussions.

However, we also need to keep in mind the other side of the story. The Turkish authorities have accused Yücel of “propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a designated terror group fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state.” If this is true, then it would be illegal both in Turkey and the United States. Freedom of speech is one thing, but inciting rebellion is too far. If the story is true, then the Turkish government would be well within their right to jail the journalist.

We have full freedom of speech in our country. Sometimes this is a good thing, and other times it is a bad one. While jailing journalists is wrong, it would be equally wrong for us to demand his release.  The people in Turkey have the right to make their own laws and to pass their own sentences.  This ties in to our class, as we have been talking about universal human rights, freedom of speech is not one of them. Cultures are different. People have different rules, and it is our job as citizens of the United States to respect other people’s right to rule. We may believe that infringing upon someone’s freedom of speech is wrong, however we must also respect someone else’s right to determine the rules of their culture.

John Maslow gave us a pyramid of basic human needs. These include the need for food, clothing and shelter. All of these are basic human necessities.  As nice as it would be for everyone to have the freedom of speech, there are many people on Earth who need a basic necessity now more than they will ever need the freedom of speech. The world should focus more on aiding those people still struggling with basic human needs, and less time worrying about whether or not someone has the right to say what they feel.


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