May 20, 2015

German Greens’ Özdemir: Any initiative to silence media will turn Turkey into Putin’s Russia

Several German politicians, including the co-chair of the German Greens Party, have harshly criticized a Turkish prosecutor's recent request to prohibit critical media outlets from using the state's communications infrastructure.

Cem Özdemir, the co-chair of the Green Party in Germany, criticized the move to stifle dissenting media in an interview with Today's Zaman on Wednesday, stating that the request aims to clamp down on the critical media ahead of the upcoming June 7 general election. “They [the government] might as well curtail the freedom of the only TV channel left where the opposition can make its voice head so that we can salute a Turkey that has only one voice and one thought,” Özdemir said sarcastically.

According to Özdemir, the move to silence the independent media is an attempt to “transform Turkey into an intolerant place where no differing voices are heard, similar to [President Vladimir] Putin's Russia.”

Speaking to Today's Zaman, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that the German government is closely following the prosecutor's initiative and that the European Commission (EC) is also watching the developments.

Bundestag president: Freedom of press indispensable for democratic societies

The president of the Bundestag, the German parliament, has also voiced his concerns regarding the proposed muzzling of independent media in Turkey, telling Today's Zaman that he is “watching the developments in Turkey with concern.”

Dr. Norbert Lammert, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said: “The premeditated actions by institutions toward media representatives openly contradict the principles of freedom of press and expression. The freedom of the press and expression are indispensable for a democratic society.”

Any action against the media before election is a clear attack on press freedom

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), one of the leading international press freedom watchdogs, also issued a statement, calling on the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications to refuse to obey the prosecutor's request. “Diversity of media and sources of information are essential for freedom of expression, information and communication. It is important for Turkey to have critical media. Any action against the media in Turkey shortly before June's general election is a clear attack on press freedom in the country,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic wrote on Tuesday.

Ankara Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, who is the head of the Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, sent a petition to the Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) Directorate General, which falls under the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications, on April 27 asking it to deny use of the state-owned satellite connection to certain media outlets.

Turkish media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into claims about the “parallel structure,” and that it particularly targets the media outlets inspired by the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. The “parallel structure” is a term invented by Erdoğan to refer to members of the Gülen movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The term came into use after a massive corruption scandal which Erdoğan has claimed was part of a Gülen movement plot to overthrow his government. The movement has denied all the allegations.

Published on Today's Zaman, 20 May 2015, Wednesday