December 20, 2014

US Congressional caucus condemns Turkey media crackdown as ’assault on democracy’

US Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans have slammed the Turkish government for going after what it said "perceived dissent," calling on Turkish authorities to immediately release journalists who have been detained.

Released by four co-chairs, the statement on Friday added to a chorus of condemnation across the world to the detention and arrest of journalists in Turkey, where they are accused of being a "terrorist organization" and allegedly orchestrating the coup against the government through "soup operas."

The members of the US Congress characterized the weekend raids on Turkish media outlets as "concerning acts of oppression" that appear to have been carried out in retaliation against "perceived dissent"

"Journalism is not a crime; it is the bulwark of an honest and open democracy," the co-chairs said.

Representatives Ed Whitfield, Steve Cohen, Virginia Foxx and Gerry Connolly released the statement on behalf of the caucus.

Four of the 12 suspects who were referred to court for arrest as part of the operation to silence the media were arrested on charges of terrorism, one of whom is a top-level media executive.

Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was released pending trial together with seven police officers by a court designed by the government following two major graft probes last December, is charged with forming and leading an armed terrorist organization. STV network executive Hidayet Karaca was kept behind bars pending trial.

The caucus co-chairs said they strongly condemn any attack on press freedom and believe such actions constitute an assault on democratic principles. They added that it has always been the purpose of the Turkey Caucus to support a mutually beneficial US-Turkey relationship that honors two nations' shared values and promotes collaboration between two democracies.

"We call on the Government of Turkey to demonstrate its commitment to this longstanding relationship and its democratic principles by immediately releasing any journalists who have been unjustly detained," the statement concluded.

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 December 2014, Friday