EU says Turkish media crackdown will harm relations
The EU and US have warned Turkey that its latest crackdown on free press will harm relations.
The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, and its enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, said on Sunday (14 December) the “operation goes against the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of”.
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With Turkey angling to open new chapters in the enlargement talks, they added that “any further step towards accession … depends on the full respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights”.
They noted the crackdown comes just “a few days” after they visited Ankara and promised that EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels on Monday, will discuss how to react.
For his part, Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, tweeted on Monday that “Turkey has to respect freedom of media”.
A US state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said: “As Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate ... core values and Turkey's own democratic foundations”.
The criticism came after Turkish police arrested some 30 journalists and police chiefs said to be linked to the opposition “Gulenist” movement.
They include Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s biggest-selling daily, Today’s Zaman, and Hidayet Karaca, the head of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group.
The charges include state subversion, forgery, and slander.
They come shortly after parliament passed a new law allowing police to detain people on grounds of “reasonable suspicion”.
They also come ahead of the one-year anniversary of The 17 December Scandal - when Erdogan says officials linked to the US-exiled Islamic preacher, Fetullah Gulen, leaked information about corruption in the president's family and inner circle, a claim the Gulenist movement denies.
“We have gone into their [Gulen-linked activists’] lairs, and we will go into them again … Whoever is beside them and behind them, we will bring down this network and bring it to account”, Erdogan said in a speech on Friday.
Sunday’s arrest also prompted complaints from leading NGOs, such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the European Federation of Journalists in Brussels.
They are part of a long-term campaign by Erdogan to silence his critics.
Turkey is in 154th place in the world in press freedom rankings by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
It already has dozens of reporters in jail on charges varying from “denigrating the Turkish nation” to “offending the religious values shared by part of the population”.
Silvan Mucadele, a newspaper publisher, faces life in prison for “attacking the indivisibility of the state and the integrity of the nation”.
It also ranks 64th out of 175 countries in the corruption perception index compiled by the Brussels-based Transparency International.
Ankara still hosts the EU’s largest foreign delegation.
But few on either side believe the enlargement talks will ever lead to Turkey joining the EU.