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29th Jan 2023

Turkish press freedoms no concern of Brussels, says Ankara

Strong concerns about the state of freedom of the press in EU-candidate country Turkey expressed by the European Commission have irked Ankara, which has responded by saying that the matter is none of Brussels' business.

In its annual report released on Wednesday (14 October) on how different countries that are applying to join the European Union are faring in bringing their legal frameworks in line with EU norms, for the first time, the commission criticised Turkey over freedom of the press for the record €2.2 billion fine slapped on the Dogan Yayin company, the country's largest media group.

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  • Threats to freedom of the press is one of Brussels' main worries about EU candidate country Turkey (Photo: Sizemore)

"The tax fine imposed on the Dogan group is a matter for the Turkish Finance Ministry, not foreign authorities, and if it can't solve it, it is a matter for the Turkish judicial system," Turkey's chief European Union negotiator Egemen Bagıs told reporters shortly after the EU report was published, according to Turkish daily Zaman.

The commission had said that the fine, imposed for unpaid taxes, could be a sign of political interference in the press, as the group's publications have featured articles focussing on alleged corruption within the ruling AK Party.

"The high fines imposed by the revenue authority potentially undermine the economic viability of the group and therefore affect freedom of the press in practice," the commission report said.

The group owns much of the country's newspaper and television market and has complained that the fine will cripple it.

"There is a need to uphold the principles of proportionality and of fairness in these tax-related procedures."

"I have asked the Turkish authorities to treat this matter very seriously," EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters on Wednesday.

The episode comes just a week after liberal and left-wing deputies in the European Parliament sought a resolution condemning Italy for the government's alleged threats to freedom of the press.

Both conservatives in the house and the European Commission argued that the EU institutions had no competence to criticise EU member states over press freedoms.

At the time, Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said: "When we are negotiating with candidate states, we insist on the highest standards of press freedom. Why do we apply higher standards than in the EU?"

"How can we tell candidate countries to improve their freedom of the press when we cannot tell this to member states?"

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