October 28, 2015

US says Turkey not keeping with democratic values after media takeover

The United States has reiterated its concern over the hostile takeover of five media outlets in Turkey, saying that Turkey is not keeping with its own democratic values.

"We think the approach is clearly not the one that we believe is in keeping with their own democratic values," John Kirby, State Department spokesman told a daily press briefing. "I can just tell you that we made these concerns known both publicly and privately," he stressed.

Turkish riot police stormed headquarters of five critical media outlets early on Wednesday, taking over the management of two newspapers, two TV channels and one radio channel. A number of reporters were beaten, detained and injured during violent brawl. Police frequently used pepper spray and fired water cannon on journalists resisting against the police to prevent them from entering inside their offices.

Kirby said on Wednesday that they are aware of these reports and that "they're concerning to us."

He urged Turkish authorities to respect not just media freedom but the political process, which includes vocal opposition. "We want to see Turkey to live up to its own democratic values enshrined in its own Constitution. It is important not just to us but more important for the people of Turkey to see that," the State Department spokesman said.

Many EU politicians, along with rights group, denounced the takeover of the media holding.

Turkish authorities appointed several trustees to replace the management of the İpek-Koza Holding business, which has media outlets including Bugün TV, the flagship station that has emerged as a main platform for opposition politicians over recent months.

The takeover of the management of Koza İpek Holding's 22 companies, including critical TV stations Bugün TV, Kanaltürk and two newspapers, comes just days before Turkey is set to have a repeat parliamentary election on Nov. 1. The move has intensified concerns about the deteriorating state of freedom of speech and of the media in Turkey.

Freedom House described the "politically motivated" takeover as an "act of censorship" that aims to control the public debate and stressed that it undermines the fairness of the upcoming polls. At least five US lawmakers also denounced the takeover.

Kirby said the US looks to governments to ensure that legal enforcement activity is done in accordance with international legal standards, including full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.

"We continue to urge Turkey to follow these standards in this and other cases," he added.

The spokesman avoided saying if US officials raised this particular issue with their Turkish counterpart, but he said it is safe to say that "we continue to make our views known both publicly and privately."

"Turkish democracy matters to us, their democratic values matter to us. We want to see them preserved," Kirby said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 28 October 2015, Wednesday