December 16, 2014

Western countries voice concern over mass media arrests

A number of Western countries have expressed concern over a recent detention of senior media figures in Turkey.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert has said it is hard to understand how the police raid that targeted journalists conforms to basic principles of press freedom, reports said. Seibert added that it would be in Turkey's favor if it eliminated doubts on whether or not Turkey is following democratic principles.

Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, and Hidayet Karaca, chairman of Samanyolu TV, were detained on Sunday in a police operation that targeted journalists, TV scriptwriters and former police officers.

Canada's foreign minister said in a written statement that actions like the recent raid are contrary to Turkey's stated commitment to democratic values and respect for human rights and freedoms.

“We call on the Turkish Government and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan to ensure that the Turkish people can exercise their democratic rights without fear of unfounded prosecution,” the statement read.

National Council of Switzerland President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter expressed concern about government pressure over the media in Turkey, according to the Cihan news agency. He stressed that fundamental rights are protected via the constitution in Switzerland.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Italy supported Turkey's EU bid; however, freedom of expression is an indispensable value.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström also expressed concern for Turkey's media freedom.

The executives of Turkey's two leading media outlets have been in custody since Sunday and are being questioned as part of a government-orchestrated police operation that has dealt a heavy blow to freedom of the press.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal recalled the recent remarks of senior EU officials on the mass detention of journalists in Turkey in a written statement on Monday. Nadal reiterated the EU's desire for Turkey to continue its reforms, particularly in key areas such as the judiciary and fundamental freedoms.

The British Foreign Office expressed support for the remarks by EU officials concerning the raid, saying: “We are closely monitoring reports that Turkish police detained a number of journalists and media personnel over the weekend. Freedom of speech and of the media are fundamental principles of any democracy.”

The US-based National Press Club (NPC) said it was dismayed over reports that Turkish journalists had been arrested. “Erdoğan should know that American journalists are concerned about reports that his government is assaulting a free press in his country," said NPC President Myron Belkind.

World's leading rights advocacy bodies have also criticized the Turkish authorities for arresting a number of journalists and warned that the assault on the media will damage free speech.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2014, Tuesday