Monday

25th Mar 2019

Press crackdown could sour EU-Turkey summit

  • Journalists and supporters gathered in front of Zaman's building to protest against the takeover (Photo: Today's Zaman)

EU-Turkey relations could suffer a blow after a Turkish court ordered on Friday (4 March) the takeover of an opposition newspaper.

Trustees have been appointed by an Istanbul court to take the management of Zaman at the request of the public prosecutor. The managerial as well as the editorial board will be changed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Zaman is close to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in the US and opponent of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The court's decision is part of a crackdown on the financial activities of the Gulen movement.

"Today, we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized," Sevgi Akarcesme, the editor in chief of Today's Zaman's, the English-language edition of the newspaper, told a crowd of people gathered outside Zaman's building.

“As of today, the constitution has been suspended,” she said, as the Turkish constitution does not allow seizure of printing houses and press equipment.

The European Commission expressed "high concern" and reminded that the EU "has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to aspire to the highest possible democratic standards and practices, including freedom of the media".

"Any country negotiating its EU accession needs to guarantee human rights, including freedom of expression, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights," a commission spokesperson said.

'Good and growing cooperation'

The attack on press freedom by Turkish authorities comes ahead of an EU-Turkey summit on common action to manage the current refugee crisis.

It happened a day after European Council president Donald Tusk was in Ankara to visit Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and while EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn was in the country visiting a refugee camp.

Ahead of the summit where European countries will ask Turkey to do more to fight migrant smuggling, reduce the flow of refugees and take back economic migrants denied asylum in Europe, the EU was trying to focus on the positive side of relations with Ankara.

On Thursday, Tusk praised the "good and growing cooperation".

On Friday, while the Istanbul court ordered Zaman's takeover, the EU commission adopted its second report on progress made by Turkey in the process to obtain a liberalisation of visas to Europe.

In a press release, migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos "commend[ed] the efforts made by Turkey".

Turkey's aim is to complete the visa liberalisation process by October this year. Otherwise, a Turkish official told EUobserver, it would "scrap" the agreement on readmission of irregular migrants.

Also on Friday, the commission announced the first €95 million of projects financed by a €3 billion fund to help Turkey with the 2.7 million Syrian refugees on its territory.

International outrage

Behind the public statements and the good gestures, however, talks on the refugee crisis could be difficult on Monday.

In the third implementation report on the EU-Turkey joint action plan, also published on Friday, the commission suggested frustration at the pace of Turkey's efforts in stemming the flows.

"The number of people arriving irregularly to the EU from Turkey is still high for this period of the year when winter conditions were expected to contribute to a decrease in the number of arrivals," the report says.

"Turkey is urged to strengthen its action against smuggling of migrants, notably by increasing its cooperation with the EU and Member State actors," it says.

"More specifically, Turkey is requested to take decisive action against migrant smuggling; to further strengthen efforts to prevent irregular crossings from Turkey to the EU."

The takeover of Zaman and the international outrage could make public relations more difficult.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on the EU to react to the event.

“The European Union cannot remain silent to the political seizure of Zaman newspaper, Today’s Zaman daily and Cihan news agency," the two journalists organisations said in a common statement, referring to news outlets of the Zaman group.

In a message posted on Twitter, the European Parliament rapporteur for Turkey, Dutch social-democratic MEP Kati Piri, wrote: "Feared for a long time, now happening: Zaman Media Group being silenced in Turkey. Crackdown on press freedom continues sadly."

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, deplored in a statement "an extremely serious interference with media freedom which should have no place in a democratic society".

“Today’s decision of the authorities to appoint trustees to Zaman newspaper is deeply worrying,” the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic was quoted as saying by Today's Zaman.

"This move not only further threatens media pluralism in the country, but also intimidates critical voices.”

EU asking Turkey to take back migrants

EU leaders hope to reach an agreement next Monday on a "fast and large-scale" mechanism to send back economic migrants arriving in Greece.

Opinion

Erdogan, prince of Europe, took my newspaper Zaman

After the forced takeover of Zaman, a daily critical of Turkey's president, its Brussels correspondent Selcuk Gultasli was told to stop writing. He asks the EU not to bargain with its values.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  2. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  3. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  4. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  5. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  6. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  7. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  8. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us