October 28, 2015

US State Dept., European politicians slam gov’t led takeover of Koza İpek

The United States and Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have severely criticized a government-led takeover of Koza İpek Holding, which owns media outlets that are critical of the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Turkish media reported on Monday that a trustee will be appointed to replace the existing board of directors of Koza and companies that belong to it, just days before parliamentary elections, after a ruling by the 5th Ankara Criminal Court of Peace.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament (EP) tweeted on Tuesday, that he is "Deeply concerned abt seizure of Koza Ipek group right ahead of 1/11 elections in #Turkey. Free media a cornerstone of vibrant democracies."

Similarly Jean Claude-Juncker, the head of the European Commission (EC) speaking in Strasbourg in the European Parliament, said; "There are 2.5 million refugees in Turkey. Now we face two possibilities: we can either say that the EU and the European institutions have outstanding issues with Turkey - human rights, press freedom and so forth - but where is that going to take us in discussions with Turkey?"

Juncker's criticism of the Turkish government's takeover of Koza İpek was met with a roar of approval from MEP's.

“We know there are shortcomings but we need to involve Turkey in our initiatives. We need to ensure that no more refugees come from Turkey to the EU. Many refugees come to Turkey with a view to moving to EU countries” he said.

Also Gianni Pittela, chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament said, “We can't leave Ankara to manage the Syrian crisis by itself. We need speedily to move forward and apply the action plan for Turkey."

“We should be clear: we won't sign a blank cheque for the Erdogan government. It's not impossible to work with Turkey on the action plan, but still try to move forward when it comes to respect for human rights and freedom of information and the respect for minorities in that country" he continued.

US urges Turkish gov't to ensure that international legal standards are upheld

The US urged the Turkish government to ensure that international legal standards are upheld, after authorities seized a number of critical media outlets.

A senior US State Department official said hours after the takeover on Monday evening that the US looks to governments to ensure that legal enforcement activity is done in accordance with international legal standards. He added that that includes full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law. "We urge Turkey to follow such standards in this and other cases.”

The US Embassy in Ankara has expressed concern over the appointment of a trustee to Koza İpek Holding.

“The US believes strongly that freedom of press/expression are universal rights. They are essential for healthy democratic societies,” the embassy said in posts on its Twitter account on Tuesday.

Without specifically referring to the seizure Koza İpek Holding's administration it added, “When there is a reduction in the range of viewpoints available to citizens, especially before an election, it is a matter of concern.”

Greens and ALDE: attempt to influence critical media must be stopped immediately

Commenting on the developments surrounding the takeover of Koza İpek, both Rebecca Harms, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, and Guy Verhofstadt, Chair of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe said, “The crystal-clear undemocratic maneuver against Ipek [Koza Holdings] prior to the Turkish election will not silence critics.”

In a co-statement, Harms and Verhofstadt said on Tuesday, “Directly before the upcoming election in Turkey this weekend the Turkish government has attempted to seize the independent media group İpek.”

“Activists and protesters are gathering to express their grievance: The AKP intends to establish their own loyal people to the board of trustees in İpek [Koza Holdings] although those must act independently.”

“As Europeans we urge President Erdogan to listen and to discuss deviant opinions and to stop the strategy of silencing opposition. [Koza Holdings] seizure has to be revised immediately” the statement concluded.

Liberal International British Group: ongoing crackdown on critical media, depressing

Vice-President of Liberal International British Group Jonathan Fryer told Today's Zaman that "For anyone who is a friend of Turkey, the ongoing crackdown on media that is critical of President Erdoğan or the AKP is deeply depressing.”

“The latest action appointing a trustee to take over the management of Koza İpek Holding just one week before fresh elections are held is a worrying interference in the democratic process regarding the freedom of debate that should prevail in an election campaign” Fryer said.

“Turkey has signed up to Council of Europe agreements guaranteeing free expression and a pluralistic media, and the government needs to demonstrate to the world that it is respecting these in practice” he added.

European MP: Seizure of İpek justifies press freedom concerns in Turkey

German politician Ska Keller, vice chairwoman of the Greens in the European Parliament and a member of the European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), has said the Turkish government's seizure of the critical İpek Media Group justifies concerns about the deteriorating situation of press freedom in Turkey.

Stating that she is highly concerned over recent developments in Turkey, Keller said her concerns grew after a series of meetings she had with Turkish journalists during a visit to the country last week.

Stressing that press freedom is crucial in democracies, Keller said democracy would not function in a country where journalists are attacked and media organizations are seized.

MEP Sommer: free and fair elections nothing more than empty words

Renate Sommer, a German Member of European Parliament said that in the current circumstances, “free and fair elections are nothing more than empty words."

Sommer told Today's Zaman on Tuesday that "The appointment of a trustee to take over the management of Koza Ipek Holding is another example of a politically motivated attack by the AK Party on the private sector and independent media only 5 days before the snap elections.”

Sommer who is the shadow Turkey rapporteur of the largest group in the European Parliament said “This is one more serious blow to democracy and it shows that the ruling AK Party is willing to sacrifice all free and democratic principles to secure its absolute majority in the elections.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 October 2015, Tuesday