June 2, 2015

Erdoğan’s alleged plan to seize Zaman lambasted by EU and journalist associations

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) President Sir Graham Watson has warned European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's alleged plans to seize the Zaman Media Group, one of the few independent media outlets in the country.

“As I am sure you are aware, signals from Turkey suggest that President Erdoğan is about to seize the only major opposition newspaper, Zaman, which has links to the Gülen movement,” Sir Graham said in a letter to Mogherini, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.

He also called on Mogherini to intervene to warn Erdoğan against suppression of dissent in this way. Mentioning that Turkey is still officially a candidate for EU membership, he said “such behavior should not pass without comment.”

A government whistleblower, known on Twitter by the pseudonym Fuat Avni, said on Monday that some 200 people will be detained in a major sweep that has been ordered by the embattled President Erdoğan, who is reportedly furious over the publication by the Cumhuriyet daily of photos of weapons being carried to radical groups in Syria by trucks run by Turkey's intelligence organization.

According to Fuat Avni, the government will detain scores of journalists critical of the government, including Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, the country's largest circulated national daily; Bülent Keneş, the editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman; Celil Sağır, the managing editor of Today's Zaman; Emre Uslu, a columnist at Today's Zaman; Kerim Balcı, the editor-in-chief of Turkish Review, a bimonthly news magazine; Faruk Mercan, the Ankara representative of Bugün TV; Adem Yavuz Arslan, the Washington bureau chief for the Bugün newspaper; Nazlı Ilıcak, a veteran columnist at Bugün; Yasemin Çongar, the former editor of the Taraf daily; Ahmet Altan, the former editor-in-chief of Taraf, and Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar.

The politically motivated investigations included not only journalists but also the corporate entities of the Zaman, Samanyolu and Bugün media outlets.

Anca Paduraru, a press officer at the European Commission for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, told Today's Zaman that the commission pays a lot of attention to events such as Erdoğan's alleged plan. "Freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of the European Union. The EU is committed to respecting the freedom and pluralism of the media, as well as the right to information and freedom of expression,” she said.

"The state and maturity of democracy in a country can be judged based on the state of the freedom of the media and respect for it.

“We have repeatedly called for a better enabling environment for the freedom of expression and press, in line with Article 10 of the European Convention for Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

“The right to inform and to be informed is of outstanding importance in electoral periods and we are closely following developments pertaining to the enjoyment of these rights,” she added.

Nigerian journalists urge WAN-IFRA to condemn Turkey

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) asked the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) to condemn the suppression of media freedom in Turkey in a letter submitted to the organization last Friday.

Suleiman Uba Gaya, the vice president of the NGE, signed the letter in which the NGE urged Turkey to “save” fellow journalists by condemning President Erdoğan. In the two-page letter, the NGE cited examples of the most recent attempts in Turkey to oppress the media, including Ankara Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun's request asking that media outlets critical of the government not be given access to the state-owned satellite connections, the arrests of judges who decided to release imprisoned journalist Hidayet Karaca and the probe into the Hürriyet daily based on a headline.

“All democratic forces should be mobilized to prevent the last bastions of free speech in Turkey and stop the government from silencing the critical media," the NGE stated in its petition to WAN-IFRA on the eve of the world's largest media congress in Washington. Uba is expected to read his letter during the conference, which started on May 31.

Published on Today's Zaman, 02 June 2015, Tuesday