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Marc Champion

Why Turkey's Leaders Can't Say 'Je Suis Charlie'

Turkey sent Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to the Paris march -- but he certainly isn't Charlie Hebdo. Given the chance he'd have closed the magazine.
Turkish journalists hold a rally in Istanbul for the victims of the Paris attacks.

Turkish journalists hold a rally in Istanbul for the victims of the Paris attacks.

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made the trip to join the anti-terrorist march Sunday in Paris, whereas U.S. leaders did not. It was the right call for a man and country that have ambitions in both the Middle East and Europe. Yet the one thing Davutoglu couldn't join the marchers in saying was, "Je Suis Charlie."

That's because Turkey's government doesn't respect freedom of expression for cartoonists, or journalists more broadly, at home. Indeed when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, Davutoglu's boss, then-Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly condemned them for it. He insisted that free speech must have limitations -- and cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo clearly breached the lines he would like Europe to draw.