October 10, 2015

US expresses concern after Keneş’s arrest, calls on Turkey to respect media freedoms

The United States has expressed concern after the arrest of Today's Zaman chief editor Bülent Keneş and called on Turkey to respect media freedoms at a time of "increasing number of investigations" into media outlets critical of the government.

Journalist Keneş, who is leading a newspaper critical of the government, was taken from his office late on Friday and arrested on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a series of tweets that the journalist said was simply him expressing a critical opinion.

Katy Bondy, State Department spokesperson, told Today's Zaman that Washington is concerned by the increasing number of investigations into media outlets for criticism of the government and for accusations of allegedly disseminating terrorist propaganda."

"We are also concerned by the aggressive use of judicial inquiries to curb free speech," Bondy said.

Earlier on Friday, Douglas Frantz, the US Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, criticized the arrest of Keneş, tweeting that "This is not a democracy."

Only on Friday, four journalists were either arrested or given a prison sentence over "insulting" Erdoğan.

The State Department spokesperson said they call on Turkey to respect the media freedoms and due process protections that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. She added that these are "key elements" in every healthy democracy and that it is particularly important to allow different voices and viewpoints to be expressed during the campaign period.

"The quality of Turkey’s democracy matters to us," Bondy said, stressing that the US expects the Turkish authorities to uphold Turkey’s core values, democratic foundations, and universally recognized fundamental freedoms.

Turkey is roundly criticized for escalating pressure on critical media outlets ahead of elections, with world's leading press advocacy bodies characterizing Turkey as one of the worst places for journalists.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 October 2015, Saturday