16 December, 2014 / Today Zaman
The European Parliament (EP) has announced that it will debate the freedom of expression in Turkey and a recent media crackdown on Wednesday, with a statement by foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
It also said it will vote on a resolution on the freedom of expression in Turkey in January. EP President Martin Schulz opened the December session with a reminder that the freedom of the press and media pluralism are fundamental EU values. “We take our negotiations with Turkey as a candidate country very seriously, he said, and must therefore point to problems as well as to progress,” he said.
Schulz said he was shocked at a raid that took place on Sunday against the opposition media, which is a worrying sign. He asked Turkish authorities for an explanation and said he would be following any developments very closely.
The Zaman daily’s editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanlı; the Samanyolu TV network’s general manager, Hidayet Karaca; and a number of other journalists, columnists, scriptwriters and producers were arrested on Sunday in a large-scale media crackdown.
The operation drew strong criticism from Europe, with Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, the commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, saying the crackdown on Zaman and other media outlets is an “unacceptable attack” against the freedom of the press. “This operation denies the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of and which are the core of reinforced relations,” they said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who strongly stands behind the operation, responded to the EU criticism with harsh statements.
“They cry press freedom, but [the raids] have nothing to do with it. … We have no concern about what the EU might say. Whether the EU accepts us as members or not, we have no such concern. Please keep your insights to yourself,” Erdoğan said in a speech.
Mogherini said she was very surprised by Erdoğan’s response, saying it is for the benefit of Turkey to be consistent when it comes to its accession to the EU. She mentioned that a delegation from the European Parliament visited Turkey last week and held constructive meetings with Turkish authorities, including Erdoğan.
Also on Tuesday, the Friends of Turkey group in the European Parliament said it is following last weekend’s police arrests with deep concern.
EP members Artis Pabriks and İsmail Ertuğ, co-chairs of the Friends of Turkey group, condemned the new round of arrests, saying they “further undermine the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of press.”
“We call on the Turkish government to enforce legislation guaranteeing press freedom and freedom of expression and to reinvigorate its rule of law reform efforts. Sunday’s wave of arrests under accusations of founding a terror organization seeking to overthrow the government accentuates, once again, the need for a revised anti-terrorism law, due to its broadly phrased nature,” they said.
They also urged the EU to enhance its engagement with Turkey on rule of law issues. It said the opening of Chapters 23 (on judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (on justice, freedom and security) is of “paramount importance to ensure compliance in the spirit of EU standards. We need to reinvigorate the accession process to bring Turkey closer to the EU and not push it further away.”