December 16, 2014

EU Council questions Turkey’s respect to media freedom with recent arrests

The European Union Council has said recent police raids and the detention of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey call into question the respect for freedom of the media, which it characterized as a "core principle of democracy."

In its conclusions of the General Affairs Council meeting on Dec. 16 in Brussels, which will be presented to the EU Summit on Dec. 18-19, the EU Council said it regrets that the response by the government to the alleged cases of corruption in December 2013 cast serious doubts over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and demonstrated an increasing intolerance of political opposition, public protest and critical media.

It also denounced the arrest of Turkish journalists in raids on Sunday, including editor-in-chief of Zaman daily, Ekrem Dumanlı. It recalled that progress in accession negotiations depends on respecting rule of law and fundamental rights, emphasizing the important role of the Constitutional Court and takes positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which should be further supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder.

The Council said it reaffirms the importance it attaches to EU relations with Turkey -- a key partner for the EU. "Its dynamic economy provides a valuable contribution to the prosperity of the European continent. The EU should remain the anchor for Turkey’s political and economic reforms. Turkey can accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfilment of the benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU," the Council conclusions said.

The Council welcomed the implementation of reforms adopted in Sept. 2013 and commended the Kurdish settlement process. It, however, urged Turkey to work on reforms which should provide for adequate checks and balances fully guaranteeing freedom, including freedom of thought, expression and of the media, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The Council also expressed its "deep regret" that Turkey, despite repeated calls, continues refusing to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement towards all member states, the fulfillment of which could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2014, Tuesday