Turkey's PM and FM rebuke criticisms over press freedoms

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Report from Freedom House on Turkey's press freedoms rebuffed by the country's prime minister and foreign minister

Report from Freedom House on Turkey's press freedoms rebuffed by the country's prime minister and foreign minister

ANKARA – “I am not claiming that we are perfect in terms of media freedoms, but everybody knows that this harsh criticism is unjust,” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in response to a report by Freedom House, a U.S. organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. 

Erdogan attending a video journalism award ceremony on Tuesday in Turkey’s capital, Ankara continued saying that if Turkey has a bad record regarding press freedom then how come it’s prime minister can be insulted and accused of dictatorship on a daily basis.

Erdogan dismissed the perception that media enjoys more freedom in Western countries noting that renowned White House correspondent, Helen Thomas, was fired in 2010 by her U.S.-based media group for criticizing Israel’s policies in the Middle East.

He added that Turkey’s state TV broadcaster was removed from Germany’s cable network just because it broadcast the anti-government protests in Hamburg in January this year.

“We are keen on listening to criticisms both from Turkey and across the world, but they should be just and righteous,” Erdogan said.

Elsewhere Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said Turkey is "open to all sorts criticisms" from home and abroad adding "it is also Turkey's freedom of expression to criticize Freedom House and such reports," during a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart, Martin Lidegaard on Tuesday.  

Davutoglu said the facts regarding the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey were incorrect in the report, which also said that Turkey had suffered a "significant decline" in press freedom.

According to Davutoglu there are only five journalists who have press cards in prison and they are in prison on other charges, not because they are journalists. However, the report states that there are 44 journalists currently in imprisoned in Turkey.

Referring to France and Switzerland's controversial bills, which allow people to be convicted of racism for denying the so-called "Armenian genocide”, Davutoglu said, "If you call the 1915 incidents a genocide I will say 'no it is not' and no one will be punished in Turkey because of that, however If I say 'the 1915 incidents are not a genocide' in Zurich, can you guarantee my freedom of expression?"

Responding to a question about Turkish Prime Minister's proclamation of a "witch-hunt" against the Gulen Movement and his "intervention in media" the foreign minister uttered "If a guest journalist can ask a question blaming that county's prime minister directly or indirectly...it clearly proves the freedom of expression in Turkey."

The Danish Foreign Minister touching on the issue of press freedom in Turkey said he appreciated developments and despite some problems there was notable progress.

Lidegaard also expressed his support for Turkey's accession process into the EU, saying Chapters 23 and 24 should be opened for the ongoing negotiations to progress.

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