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Worldwide Open Season on the Press

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Message Jayne Stahl
On an otherwise quiet street in Istanbul, this morning, a 53 year old Turkish citizen of Armenian descent was gunned down outside his office on his way to work. Hrant Dink, the editor of Turkey's one and only Armenian language newspaper, "Agos," and an honorary member of PEN American Center, now joins the swelling ranks of reporters who have been killed in Russia, Mexico, Iraq, and Turkey this year alone. An eyewitness to the murder said only that he saw a young man, in his late teens, who wore a pair of jeans and a cap, run from the scene screaming only, "I shot the non-Muslim." (Reuters) So, this is the sorry state we, as a planet, have come to when our teenagers turn our weapons on us.

Just last year, Mr. Dink was convicted of profaning his mostly Muslim country based on remarks he made about the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians before World War I, a crime the Turkish government insists never occurred. His appeals led nowhere, and Dink was sentenced to six months in jail. Like last year's Nobel Laureate, Orphan Pamuk, he was charged with "insulting Turkish identity," section 301 of Turkey's penal code. But, unlike Nobel Laureate Pamuk, the indictment against Hrant Dink led to conviction,and today he paid with his life, reportedly at the hands of someone young enough to be his grandchild.

Given that Turkey wants to join the European Union, they may be forced to reconsider their revisionism and denial of the Armenian holocaust. Ironically, and tragically, Mr. Dink's was among the few voices, in Turkey, calling for democracy and appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. In the last article he published in "Agos," he wrote: "Who knows what kind of injustices I am yet to encounter? ...Yes, I might see myself living in the timidity of a pigeon, but I know in this country people do not touch pigeons. Pigeons can live in the depths of the city, even among the human crowds. Yes, perhaps in a little timid way, but also in liberty." Clearly, his request to live in liberty was more than some could bear.

As, indeed, was renowned Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in her apartment building in October. Politkovskaya, too, believed that speaking up for what she thinks is right was worthwhile; maybe, like Hink, she thought, too, that people in her country don't touch pigeons, that even though she feared for her life, she would be safe as the truth always finds a safe harbor somewhere. For both Anna and Hrant, there was to be no refuge. You will remember that Anna had not been convicted of "insulting" Russian-ness, but getting too close to the nucleus of who gives the commands to torture "terrorists" in Chechnya; possibly fingering her country's president who, after hearing of her death, would say only that the way she died is the only thing she will be remembered for. Shame on Mr. Putin. Shame on those who torture, assasinate, and rob their country of those who dissent, differ, or report on what is really happening instead of delivering the party line.

By way of contrast, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edrogan vowed to find Dink's assailant, and bring him to justice. In a televised speech, Edrogan said that the attack came as a "shock," and that "the dark hands that killed hiim will be found and punished." (CNN) What he didn't say is that Dink had received a number of death threats in the past, and had asked for protection which he clearly never got. While the prime minister said Dink's murder was an "insult" to the Turkish nation, he didn't say that the charges against Dink of "insulting Turkishness" would be dropped, and that efforts will be made to preserve and protect a free press in that country.

What we didn't hear around Thanksgiving from the Mexican government is the pledge to track whomever murdered Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of "El Despertar de La Costa," who was attacked in his hotel room only hours after finishing a report linking the actions of his government to organized crime. We didn't hear the anguished cries of his colleagues vowing not to rest until they found his assailants.

What we don't hear today is outrage from the mainstream media, around the world, at this open season on the press; this the deadliest year on record, a year in which some 75 journalists have been slaughtered according to PEN American Center. There have been moving tributes to murdered journalists, like Anna Politkovskaya, in which editors, and renowned writers have read from here work, but one can't help but think how quickly we become acclimated to that which is heinous, and unacceptable, and lose ourselves in memorializing, or the kind of catharsis which disfigures that which makes us moral animals and not brutes.

We cannot afford to rest until we find out who ordered Anna's killing, and the assasination of Misael Hernandez. What's more, as members of the human race, we deserve and demand to know why anyone would kill someone else for not being a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, or for whatever reason. We can no more seek solace in the abandoned essays of Hrant Dink than we can in the absence of the truth of how, and why he died, and we will not be deterred from finding out, no matter what the price.

Let those three shots that shattered a man's life, on this dark day in Turkey, be heard round the world. Let it be known from this day forward that the murder of one editor, or journalist anywhere is a threat to journalists everywhere. Those who care about truth and freedom of expression must stand together and, as Hrant Dink wrote in his last published article, ensure that "we never have to go through such a departure" again.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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