June 2, 2015

German Greens call on EU to issue warning to Turkey

The Green Party in Germany has described the increasing pressure on the media in Turkey as “worrying” and has urged the European Union to issue a stern rebuke to Ankara over deteriorating human rights and democratic values in the country.

“The recent developments in Turkey are worrying. Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] criticizes foreign press representatives and prominent Turkish journalists in the country are threatened. It is essential for a democratic state of law to ensure free media coverage. However, the government in Turkey seems far away from this,” Green Party media and politics spokesperson Tabea Rössner said in an interview with Today's Zaman on Tuesday.

Mentioning that Turkey now ranks among countries with the highest number of imprisoned journalists, Rössner said that the continuing crackdown on the opposition media results in self-censorship by most media outlets in the country, something that is against the values that an EU candidate country should be governed by. According to Rössner, the European Union should increase its criticism of Turkey. "Europe must insist that the Turkish government respects human rights and democratic values," she said.

Turkey was the world's worst jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013. Although the country no longer occupies the top position, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the government has threatened and detained a number of journalists recently, accusing them of working against the Turkish state. The detentions have come after Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) claimed that the Gülen movement -- also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- aspired to topple the government with the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 graft probes, which implicated Erdoğan and members of his inner circle. The Hizmet movement vehemently denies the accusations.

Since then, the government and Erdoğan have launched a campaign against Hizmet-affiliated media groups, of which culmination was the Dec. 14, 2014 operation that ended with the detention of Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey's biggest-selling daily, and Hidayet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu TV, both of whom are affiliated with the Gülen movement. Although Dumanlı was released several days later, Karaca remains under arrest.

In a recent post, prominent Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed that a second wave of detentions targeting opposition media outlets would shortly begin. Avni claimed on Monday that a large number of journalists -- mostly affiliated to the Hizmet movement, along with others from the Taraf and Cumhuriyet dailies -- would be taken into custody as part of the government's efforts to clamp down on independent and critical media outlets. The journalists who will allegedly be detained include Dumanlı; Bülent Keneş, the editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman; Kerim Balcı, the editor-in-chief of Turkish Review, a bimonthly news magazine; Celil Sağır, the managing editor of Today's Zaman; Faruk Mercan, the Ankara representative of Bugün TV; Adem Yavuz Arslan, the Washington bureau chief of the Bugün newspaper; Nazlı Ilıcak, a veteran columnist at Bugün; Yasemin Çongar, a former editor of Taraf; Ahmet Altan, a former editor-in-chief of Taraf; Emre Uslu, a columnist at Today's Zaman; and Cumhuriyet's Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar.

These developments come only week before the country's June 7 parliamentary election.

Published on Today's Zaman, 2 June 2015, Tuesday