September 2, 2015

European politicians call on gov’t to stop raids on critical media

European Union politicians have expressed increasing concern over police raids against media outlets critical of the government, following a raid targeting Koza İpek Holding, with Rebecca Harms, president of the Greens in the European Parliament (EP), calling on the government to stop trying to subdue critical media.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, Harms said, “I strongly ask the Turkish government to stop the strategy to subdue the critical media,” adding that “media freedom is a core value of democracies.”

The German politician went on: “The EU should make it really clear that it is unacceptable in a democratic electoral process to silence critical media. During my recent visit to Turkey in July I understood that all opposition media shared a deep fear of this strategy of Mr. Erdoğan to silence critical media.

“I understand that Mr. Erdogan cannot deal with the defeat of the last parliamentarian elections. And he tries now with this snap election to get a better result,” she said, adding, “But his strategy is so awful that I hope that democratic society in Turkey is stronger than this weak strategy of Mr. Erdoğan.”

Council of Europe secretary-general following latest incidents closely

Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said he “has been following the latest incidents regarding Turkish media outlets and foreign journalists closely.”

In a statement to Today's Zaman, Jagland said he “will address the latest incidents with the Turkish authorities at the next possible opportunity.”

Also, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a written statement on Tuesday that he is “very concerned about reports of raids carried out by the Turkish police in several newsrooms and the arrest of two VICE journalists in Turkey.”

“These intimidating acts should stop immediately and the Turkish authorities should take resolute steps to ensure greater freedom of the media,” he said.

MEP Karim says raids against free media ‘attacks on fundamental freedoms'

Sajjad Karim, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the EP, spoke to Today's Zaman, pointing out the operations against free media in Turkey which took place on Tuesday morning were “attacks on fundamental freedoms.”

Auditors accompanied by police raided the corporate headquarters of Koza İpek Holding on Tuesday morning as well as subsidiary companies in what the opposition and advocacy groups say is part of a campaign of intimidation to muzzle free and independent media.

The Turkish dailies Bugün and Millet, TV stations Bugün TV and Kanaltürk and the website are all subsidiaries of the İpek Media Group.

“More concerning developments are emerging with attacks on fundamental freedoms in Turkey. Just yesterday British journalists were arrested and now these raids on İpek [Holding],” said Karim, who is a member of the Conservative Party in the UK.

Karim, whose group in the EP also includes the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which is thought to be behind the police operations, commented on the arrest of two British journalists who were incarcerated on Monday for alleged terrorist activities in Turkey.

A court in Diyarbakır ruled to arrest two VICE News journalists as well as their assistant on charges of "aiding a terrorist organization." The journalists are accused of collaborating with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

VICE News, along with a number of press advocacy groups, called on Turkish authorities to release the journalists. VICE described the charges as "baseless and alarmingly false." The arrest of the journalists has caused outrage in both Turkey and the West.

MEP: Raids go in opposite direction of Turkey's EU aspirations

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, another MEP, has defined Tuesday's crackdown on a media group that is critical of the government as worrying and called on the Turkish government to cease the raids immediately.

In her remarks to Today's Zaman, Bildt, a member of the EP from the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats), pointed out the fact that the raids come at a time when Turkey is preparing to hold snap elections on Nov. 1 and defined them as "worrying actions taken without any basis.”

“These raids should immediately stop. In the EU, freedom of media and expression is fundamental and extremely important. It should be respected. The developments go in the opposite direction of Turkey's EU aspirations,” she said.

“It is very regrettable what we are witnessing in Turkey. Turkish authorities should know that press freedom is also very important for European citizens; people on the street care about it very much,” Bildt added.

Liberal Group head: Raids risk great harm to Turkey's international reputation

Speaking to Today's Zaman, Jonathan Fryer, director of the Liberal International British Group, pointed to the risk the police raids pose to Turkey's international standing.

"The latest police interventions are in direct contravention to Council of Europe standards and norms and risk doing great harm to Turkey's reputation internationally," he said.

Fryer added, "In the run-up to what is going to be a fiercely fought new election on Nov. 1, it is more important than ever that diverse media are able to operate freely, without harassment.”

German Greens co-chair: Operation only the beginning

Cem Özdemir, the co-chair of the German Greens, criticized the move to stifle dissenting media in an interview with Today's Zaman on Tuesday and said the operation against Koza İpek Holding was "only the beginning."

“A Turkey in which operations are conducted against newspapers cannot get anywhere, let alone into the EU,” said Özdemir.

He said such operations as the one against Koza İpek Holding aim to intimidate newspapers critical of the government such as the Zaman and Hürriyet dailies. “I believe that journalists inside and outside of Turkey must stand together, because today it is that newspaper and tomorrow it will be another one,” he said.

Underlining that there will be no news outlets in the future that do not possess the same view as the government, Özdemir said, “This operation is only the beginning.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 September 2015, Tuesday