May 21, 2015

EP: Turkish prosecutor’s move to silence dissident media very worrisome

The European Parliament's (EP) Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, and another EP member have leveled criticism over a Turkish prosecutor's recent request to prohibit media outlets critical of the government from using the state's communications infrastructure, emphasizing that the EP is very concerned over the news coming from Turkey.

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, which falls under the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications, on April 27 asking it to prevent the state-owned satellite connection from being used by certain media outlets.

The pro-government jurist's attempt to censor critical media outlets has been attracting strong criticism and condemnation both domestically and abroad.

Speaking to Today's Zaman following Wednesday discussions at the EP over a progress report to be prepared on Turkey, German politician Ska Keller, a member of the EP and vice chairman of the Greens, described the recent developments happening in Turkey as very worrying, adding: “Even if it is now just gossip, any attempt aiming at silencing the media is against fundamental rights. Such an attempt would be against the rule of law, the transparent state understanding and the principles of democracy.”

Giving some details about the progress report to be prepared about Turkey, Keller said the focus of the report will be on the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, human rights and other fundamental rights and freedoms. She added that providing that those pre-mentioned conditions are put under guarantee in Turkey, they can discuss improving economic relations with the country.

Speaking about the prosecutor's controversial request during a press conference held on Wednesday, the EP's Turkey rapporteur Piri also said she is very concerned over the prosecutor's move to silence media outlets that are critical of the government.

The EP postponed a long-awaited vote on Thursday for final consultations. The members of parliament may add the prosecutor's attempt to silence critical media to the report, observers of the sessions said.

Piri: Freedom of the press very crucial issue for EU

Saying the EP is closely monitoring all kinds of developments on the issue, Piri said some dissident media outlets have been put under increasing pressure by pro-government circles in Turkey and reminded that some reporters affiliated with the Zaman media group were thrown out of events that figures linked to the government attended.

Piri said the Turkish nation has the right to be informed about any development happening in their country and also emphasized that freedom of the press is one of the fundamental values of the European Union.

Piri also added: “However, we should be clear. We are very concerned over some situations [in Turkey]. We are concerned over some developments that happened recently regarding independence of the judiciary, the freedom of expression, the freedom of the press and over the arrest of journalists.”

The Turkish police raided a number of venues on Dec. 14 of last year and detained 31 suspects, including a number of journalists. Editor-in-Chief of Turkey's bestselling newspaper Zaman Ekrem Dumanlı and Chief Executive of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Hidayet Karaca were among the journalists detained.

Dumanlı was later released pending trial on Dec. 19, while Karaca is still behind bars. Apart from Karaca, there have been other journalists who were arrested or subjected to various legal proceedings for engaging in their profession.

In addition to Keller and Piri, some other European politicians had earlier expressed criticism about prosecutor Çoşkun's recent initiative.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the German government is closely following the prosecutor's initiative and that the European Commission (EC) is also watching developments, while Dr. Norbert Lammert -- a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) -- said Çoşkun's attempt openly contradicts the principles of freedom of the press and expression.

The Turkish media reported that the prosecutor's demand came as part of an investigation into claims about the “parallel structure” and particularly targets the media outlets believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The “parallel structure” is a term invented by Erdoğan, following a massive corruption scandal, to refer to members of the Gülen movement. The movement strongly denies such claims.

Former presidential candidate: Turkey third world country in terms of media freedom

Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, joint candidate for the opposition parties for Turkey's presidential elections in 2014 and former secretary-general of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said Turkey has become a third world country in terms of human rights, freedom of expression and media freedom.

İhsanoğlu, who is running for a seat in Parliament in the upcoming parliamentary election from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said the judicial system has crumbled in Turkey. While Turkey was seeking a spot in first world, he said it has regressed to the level of a third world country.

"In addition to miserable conditions in terms of liberties and freedom, the collapse of the judicial system, the judiciary taking sides [in disputes] and the judiciary's arbitrary judgment no longer surprises us," he said during a campaign event in İstanbul on Thursday.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 May 2015, Thursday