May 18, 2015

Çavuşoğlu: No member of judiciary can order silencing of critical media

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that no member of the judiciary, prosecutor or judge can order the silencing of media critical of the government after a Turkish prosecutor asked the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications to block access to the state's communications infrastructure for critical media outlets.

In remarks made during a press conference following the Turkey-European Union Partnership Council in Brussels, Çavuşoğlu spoke against the prosecutor's request.

“A prosecutor, judge or member of the judiciary cannot order the silencing of anti-government newspapers. This is against the rule of law and freedom of expression,” Çavuşoğlu said regarding reports suggesting an Ankara prosecutor is seeking to block certain critical media outlets.

According to media reports, Ankara Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, who is responsible for the Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, sent a document to the Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) Directorate General on April 27 requesting that it prevent the state-owned satellite network from being used by certain media outlets. The Turkish media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation targeting the media outlets connected to the Gülen movement.

In response to a question about imprisoned journalists in Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said he cannot accept the imprisonment of any journalist for practicing journalism. His reply, which is standard for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, was to maintain that no journalist has been imprisoned in Turkey due to journalistic activities but that some journalists have been jailed for other activities altogether.

“Freedom of speech for journalists is, of course, very important. But if you are saying that journalists are exempt from [penalty when] committing other crimes or that they are untouchable, that is another point altogether. I think no one should be exempt from [punishment for] committing a crime or having impunity because of their job. As the foreign minister of the Turkish Republic I cannot accept a journalist's being imprisoned due to journalistic activity. We need to make a distinction between them,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Hahn: Media freedom not negotiable for EU

Speaking during the press conference, Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, stressed that media freedom is not a matter of negotiation for the EU, which Turkey has long been seeking to join.

“We have repeatedly expressed how important for us freedom of media is and it is certainly something which is one of the key areas when we are talking about fundamentals. This is something one has to respect. This is something which is not negotiable,” Hahn declared.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 May 2015, Monday