January 12, 2015

European press criticizes Turkish PM’s presence at Hebdo march

Several prominent columnists from major European newspapers have criticized the presence of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at a march, commemorating those killed during last week's attack at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, citing Turkey's worsening track record in terms of press freedom.

John Lichfield, a columnist for The Independent, wrote in an article on Sunday that, “the presence of leaders of countries known for repressing freedom of speech caused consternation among left-wing commentators and human rights groups in France.”

Lichfield stated that Turkey came 154th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2014, coming behind Russia, Gabon and Hungary, pointing out that the government in Turkey has recently engaged in a sweeping campaign of arrests of critical and independent-minded journalists.

The article, titled: “Paris march: Political divide exposed as politicians who repress freedom of speech join rally,” spoke about Prime Minister Davutoğlu as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Ali Bongo of Gabon as leaders deemed to repress freedom of speech and media independence in their countries.

Le Monde's Renterghem: Why not Assad?

Another article critical of Davutoğlu's visit to the Charlie Hebdo demonstration, in the French daily Le Monde, also listed the Turkish prime minister as one of the leaders of the states it considered to be doing very badly in terms of media freedoms and freedom of speech.

The article in Le Monde stated that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently came under the spotlight for a massive wave of arrests against media which are in opposition to his government, citing the operations made against the Zaman daily and the Samanyolu Broadcasting group.

Le Monde reporter Marion Van Renterghem took to her social media account to criticize the leadership turnout at the march by writing: “Netanyahu, Lavrov, Orban, Davutoğlu, Bongo at the press freedom demo. Why not Bashar al-Assad?”

Guardian: Turkey is harsh environments for journalists

Mark Tran, from the UK newspaper The Guardian, also wrote of the Turkish prime minister's visit to the march in solidarity with the French people and in remembrance of the Charlie Hebdo attack victims.

Tran's article on Sunday, titled, “Presence at Paris rally of leaders with poor free press records is condemned,” also underlines that Reporters Without Borders singles out the leaders of Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates “as being responsible for a particularly harsh environments for journalists.”

The article in the Guardian, states; “Nearly 70 journalists are being prosecuted in Turkey for referring to corruption allegations against close associates of the former Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is now the president.”

French news outlet France 24 also commented on the turnout of the leaders at the protest again citing the Press Freedom Index. The headline of the category examining Turkey was; “Turkey – PFI Ranking: 148. Represented by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister”, highlights the country's poor PFI score.

“Turkey has also imprisoned newspaper editors for their alleged links with Fethullah Gülen, an influential Muslim cleric currently the subject of an arrest warrant after being accused of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government.” read the article written by Alexandre Capron.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 January 2015, Monday