Sunday

17th Jan 2021

Juncker says Erdogan can't silence EU media

  • Juncker (l) with Erdogan - commission said Ankara's appeal to Berlin moved it further from EU (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Comission joined Berlin on Wednesday (30 March) in rejecting Turkey’s appeal to quash a song which makes fun of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mina Andreeva, a spokeswoman for commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, told press in Brussels that Turkey’s request for German authorities to order the song off the air is out of touch with EU norms.

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"This move doesn't seem to be in line with upholding the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, which are values the EU cherishes a lot,” she said.

“[Juncker] believes this moves Turkey further from the EU rather than closer to us.”

She added that the EU “appreciates” Turkey's agreement to take back irregular migrants from Greece.

But she noted that the EU-Turkey statement which governs the migrant deal says the EU offer to open new parts of Turkey’s accession talks is “without prejudice to member states' positions in accordance with the existing rules.”

The two-minute long German song, which mocks Erdogan on corruption and authoritarianism, had 3 million hits on YouTube as of Wednesday.

It had earlier been shown on 17 March by German public broadcaster NDR, prompting Ankara to call in Germany’s ambassador to ask him to take the song off the air.

But the German foreign ministry refused to do it, adding in a statement that: “Protection of basic freedoms, including freedom of the press and speech are important commodities that we must all protect together.”

Press crackdown

Erdogan’s attempt to silence satire in the EU comes amid a protracted crackdown on press freedom at home.

On 25 March it began the trial, behind closed doors, of two well-known journalists - Can Dundar and Erdem Gul - who face multiple life sentences for exposing Turkish arms shipments to Syria rebel groups.

EU and US diplomats attended the first day of the trial, also prompting Turkish complaints.

Earlier this month Turkey sentenced Bulent Kenes, the founding editor of Zaman, an opposition newspaper, to 21 months in prison for “insulting” Erdogan.

It also seized and shut down Zaman itself.

Erdogan arrived in the US for a nuclear non-proliferation summit on Wednesday, but his visit was also marred by protocol and communications disputes.

The White House snubbed him by declining to call an official meeting with US president Barack Obama.

#WeLoveErdogan

Pro-Erdogan Turkish media accused the US-based firm Twitter of suppressing a hashtag - “#WeLoveErdogan” - which had been trending ahead of his visit but which suddenly vanished.

Bystanders also filmed Erdogan security staff jeering and yelling next to anti-Erdogan protesters in the US capital in what appeared to be an attempt to drown out the protesters’ slogans.

The EU-Turkey migrant deal is supposed to enter into life on 4 April, when Greece is to start sending back people who crossed the Aegean to Turkey.

Andreeva said Greece is expected to pass a law "in the next few days" to allow foreign judges to handle asylum claims on its territory.

EU states have promised to lend Greece 34 judges to help process migrants' appeals against being sent back to Turkey.

Andreeva said the appeals cases will be "expedited" as fast as possible, but will follow "due process" and will respect the fact that "some cases are more complex than others."

Turkish diplomats have declined to comment on the press crackdown in Turkey. But they say that Turkey will be more open to EU criticism after the accession process gets moving again.

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