April 2, 2015

Harms: No media freedom in Turkey right now

The leader of the Greens in the European Parliament (EP) has criticized the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with unusually strong words, stressing several times that Turkey is going through an "insane" period.

Rebecca Harms, the German co-chairwoman of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the EP, did not mince words when assessing the performance of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's government. She was in particular very critical of President Erdoğan, whom her group had given strong support for a long period of time because of democratic reforms that brought Turkey closer to EU standards.

In an interview with Zaman's Brussels representative aired on Samanyolu Haber TV Wednesday night, Harms said Turkey no longer enjoys media freedom. When asked about Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca and journalist Mehmet Baransu -- both in jail on charges seen by many as flimsy -- Harms said that currently there is no media freedom in Turkey.

"I think these cases you mentioned show that there is no media freedom in Turkey right now. It is under intense pressure. It is not only because of those colleagues in prison or facing trials at courts but also because the government and the president are regarding critics in the press as threats to the state. They see in every critical journalist an enemy of the state. So this is completely unacceptable, and I think Erdoğan knows that it is unacceptable," she said.

Stressing that Erdoğan has decided not to respect democratic rules, Harms said all journalists who dare to criticize him are threatened. When reminded that court cases pertaining to alleged 'insults' of Erdoğan have skyrocketed, the EP member said the situation was "really insane."

"It shows that the government and the president do not feel they are safe. They are surrounded everywhere by enemies. It is insane. It is really insane," she said.

Commenting on the closure of corruption investigations that went public on Dec. 17 as well as the prosecution of the prosecutors who initiated them, Harms suggested that Erdoğan and the government have something to hide.

"The government and the president, they both have something to hide. All those who are trying to investigate and to make it [corruption charges] a public issue, they are regarded as enemies of the state, and all have the same fate. So I think this road is very difficult to continue. I fear that until the elections in Turkey we will see more such cases, also against citizens," she said.

Harms also reacted to Erdoğan's criticism of the international outcry over the deterioration of democracy in Turkey, in particular regarding a letter from US senators to US Secretary of State of John Kerry on media freedom. "It is a very poor approach for a president who has responsibility for a big nation such as Turkey to allow people only to be with him. If they are criticizing him, they are against him. So this is not a good approach. I have growing concerns about Turkey," Harms said.

'Nobody can believe "parallel state" theory'

The Greens leader also criticized the European approach vis-à-vis accession negotiations, while forcefully underlining the huge disappointment they have felt toward Erdoğan. Although she said they were for resuming accession talks, the German politician argued that they needed serious partners in the process.

"If government is going that much against the rule of law, against fundamental freedoms of citizens and media freedom, it is really difficult to imagine to figure out what we can negotiate," she said.

Harms also said the theory of a so-called "parallel state" was hard to believe for many in Brussels. "If there would be one or two accusations about the parallel state, there would be a chance. But if these accusations are repeated again and again, and most importantly against those people who seriously tried to investigate the deep state, then nobody can believe it," she said.

The seizure of Bank Asya was another case of madness, according to Harms. "You see it in all the sectors. Not only in politics, not only in Parliament, not only among the Kurds, not only among the journalists, but even the banks are among the traitors and enemies of the state. I can only repeat myself. It is insane," she said.

Published on Cihan, 01 April 2015, Wednesday