December 18, 2014

EU criticism of mass media arrests in Turkey mounts

European Union officials are continuing to criticize Turkey for recent government-backed police operations in Turkey over the weekend in which several journalists were detained.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice president of the European Parliament (EP), has said that Turkey's official statements that it wants to join the EU do not match the government's actions.

“The repeated actions of the Turkish government against journalists, editors and publishers mean that the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession negotiations are no longer being fulfilled," Lambsdorff added.

Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the EP, has stressed that the systematic attacks on the rule of law in Turkey must stop.

“Turkey should stop its path away from Europe, and meanwhile, Europe must make it clear that too many boundaries have been unacceptably crossed,” she noted.

Chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the EP, Gianni Pittella, has said that the S&D has always supported Turkey's candidacy to join the EU, but as a candidate country Turkey has to comply with the core values and principles of the EU.

“Unfortunately, the Turkish government's acts and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan's rhetoric are taking Turkey further away from this objective. Far away from Europe,” Pittella said.

He said the S&D urges Turkey to release all the detained journalists, to uphold the rule of law, to respect the freedom of the media and freedom of expression.

“In a democratic country, the freedom to criticize the government or the ruling party cannot be limited -- or put under threat -- under any circumstances. We remind the Turkish government that this is central to the values of the EU,” Pittella added.

In response to Erdoğan's reaction to EU criticism of recent events, saying, “Mind your own business,” Pittella defended the EU's right to join the discussion about the state of democracy in Turkey.

Pittella told Cihan News Agency that the EU has the right to express its view if there is what it considers to be a violation of democratic principles.

Kati Piri, the EP's new Turkey rapporteur, has expressed deep concern about the detention of journalists from critical media outlets, describing it as another blow to press freedom.

“The events of 14 December caused serious concerns in the EU about Turkish willingness to make progress in the field of democratic reforms. In the weeks to come, it is up to Ankara to convince us that it is still truly committed to moving closer to the EU and its core values," she added.

In addition, member of the EP Greens Group, Eva Joly, also stressed that the mass detention of journalists is unacceptable in democracies.

Joly, a former presidential candidate in France, said Erdoğan is not fighting against Europe, but rather against his own people, according to Cihan News Agency.

EU questions Turkey's respect for media freedom

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

In its conclusion following 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 of the government to the alleged cases of corruption revealed 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 on Sunday, including the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, Ekrem Dumanlı. It recalled that progress in EU accession negotiations depends on respecting the rule of law and fundamental rights, emphasizing the important role of the Constitutional Court and taking positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which it said should be further supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder.

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

EU-Turkey relations further strained

Erdoğan continued his criticism of the EU on Wednesday and accused EU officials of issuing statements composed of “lies” about the detention of journalists in Turkey.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a high-speed train line in Konya province, Erdoğan said some EU officials have prejudged the operation, which he said is in line with the rule of law.

“Ladies and gentlemen, those days have passed. You may make statements [made up] of lies, but we determine our way by ourselves,” Erdoğan said.

Furthermore, Erdoğan called on the EU to come to Turkey to get a lecture on real democracy.

“They [EU officials] are disturbed by my remarks. Why are you troubled [by my statements]?” Erdoğan added.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 December 2014, Wednesday