November 11, 2015

Germany to raise issue of freedom of press in G-20 summit

German officials have said that they will raise the issue of freedom of the press during this weekend's G-20 summit in Turkey, which comes at a time when the pro-government media in Turkey have called for trustees to be appointed to take over independent media outlets such as the Zaman daily.

“The [recent] developments as regards freedom of the press and of speech in Turkey will also be touched upon, though in an indirect way, in a session in which corruption will be discussed,” a member of the German government delegation that will be attending the summit told Today's Zaman on Tuesday.

The G-20 summit, which will be held in Antalya on Nov. 15 and 16, comes shortly after the illegal appointment of partisan trustees by the government to the management of Koza İpek Holding, which owns a number of media outlets that are critical of the government.

The office of the spokesperson of the German Foreign Ministry also expressed concern about the free media in Turkey, telling Today's Zaman that “the German federal government has been closely watching the developments in the area of the freedom of the press” in the country. The office also noted that German officials had brought up their concerns over freedom of the press in previous meetings with Turkish officials.

The Bugün and Millet dailies and the Kanaltürk television channel are among the media outlets owned by Koza İpek that have been taken over by the government.

At the end of last month, the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace ruled to appoint trustees to replace the existing boards of directors of Koza İpek Holding and its companies. The takeover came just days before the snap general election held on Nov. 1. The takeover of the holding was conducted based on an expert opinion that found there were no faults in the accounting books of the holding. The prosecutor who ordered the takeover argued that it was suspicious for a holding to have such clean accounting practices given that a perfect record is almost impossible to achieve in Turkey.

In response to a question about freedom of the press and calls to appoint trustees to other independent media outlets, the German government spokesperson underlined that freedom of the press is a value to which Germany attaches considerable importance.

Claudia Roth, the deputy speaker of the German parliament, also strongly criticized the calls to appoint more trustees to media outlets. Noting that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has for years pursued a policy of putting pressure on the media, she told Today's Zaman on Tuesday: “A limit has been reached with the latest appointment of trustees. For this reason, we need to adopt a critical attitude toward [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and critics need to stand up with self-confidence.”

Roth also called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to bring up the issue of freedom of the press in Turkey in the G-20 summit.

Published on Today's Zaman, 10 November 2015, Tuesday