December 18, 2014

EP member: Dream of European Turkey has become nightmare

Our dream of a European Turkey has turned into a nightmare and it is time for a wake-up call, Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament (EP) said in an EP plenary debate on Turkey's Sunday detention of senior journalists, police officers and screenwriters.

The EP held a debate on Wednesday regarding the latest developments in Turkey: the detention of at least 20 persons, including journalists, who were taken into custody on Sunday on charges of forming a terrorist organization and trying to seize control of the state.

The Zaman daily's editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı; the Samanyolu TV network's general manager, Hidayet Karaca; and a number of other journalists, columnists, scriptwriters and producers were detained in Sunday's large-scale media crackdown.

Speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the debate, Schaake said the detention of journalists was part of a trend of “government-led breaches of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey.” She said the witch hunt targeting Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen supporters is only “the latest in a long list of rule of law violations.”

Schaake expressed concern, saying it comes down to the EP's fear that Turkey would slide ever further away from democracy if Turkey's accession negotiations were to stop; however, she underlined that the Turkish government has a record of unlawful acts, restricting and violating freedoms, which the EU has failed to seriously criticize. Schaake called on the EU to act firmly from now on.

“Today there are masses of people in Turkey who live in fear for their future -- women, academics, artists, business leaders and, frankly, anyone who is critical of the government. ... It is time to tell the AKP [Justice and Development Party or AK Party] government that it is not business as usual. Europe has to show that there must be an end to the violations of the rule of law,” she said during her address in the EP.

The police operation drew strong criticism from Europe. Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, the commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said the crackdown on Zaman and other media outlets is an "unacceptable attack" against the freedom of the press. “This operation denies the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of and which are the core of reinforced relations,” they said in a joint statement issued on Dec. 14.

The EP will vote on a resolution on the freedom of expression in Turkey in January.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 December 2014, Thursday