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Turkey Tightening Media Crackdown as EU Looks On

  • Dorian Jones

FILE - A protester is seen holding a placard at a rally in support of press freedom near the headquarters of a media company in Istanbul, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015.

FILE - A protester is seen holding a placard at a rally in support of press freedom near the headquarters of a media company in Istanbul, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015.

Concerns over media freedom in Turkey are growing with the opening of a trial against a journalist who is facing 23 years in jail for writing about members of the judiciary who allegedly received preferential treatment in a real estate deal. Meanwhile, the European Union is under criticism for allegedly ignoring the crackdown.

Lawyers representing Canan Coskun claim the case against her is aimed at silencing investigative reporting in Turkey. After a short hearing Thursday her case was adjourned until March.

The same court is hearing more than dozen cases against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, where Coskun works. Many of the cases are for the crime of insulting the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or other government officials.

Meanwhile, late Wednesday police raided a printing house linked to another newspaper critical of the government.

As the media crackdown continues, human rights groups are criticizing the European Union for failing to take a tougher stance against Ankara.

‘Real danger’

Human Rights Watch chief Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said the EU could be choosing expediency over principle.

"I think there is a real danger that the European Union wants to pursue its refugee deal by turning its focus away from the real risks that Turkey’s own citizens now face," Sinclair-Webb said.

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper, Turkey’s EU minister, Beril Dedeoglu said an unnamed EU official offered to water down criticism of Turkey in its annual progress report in exchange for Ankara helping to stem the growing numbers of migrants entering Europe through Turkish borders.

Turkey blames ‘conspiracies’

A statement from the EU office in Ankara said it could not verify the alleged comment made by what it described as a junior official, but added in any case it did not reflect the position of the EU.

But the spokesman for the Socialist bloc on foreign affairs at the European Parliament, Richard Howitt, warned that concerns about the EU Commission’s handling of Turkey is growing.

"There is a very hot debate going on. Yes, we want to deal with the refugee crisis. Yes, Turkey deserves to be treated fairly and properly in relation to its own accession prospects. But, yes too, if there are shortfalls in democracy and respect [for] human rights in the country as in any other, the European Union cannot be silent," Howitt said.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), fresh from this month’s election victory, has said it is committed to media freedom, but warned there will be no let up on its crackdown on what it calls "conspiracies against it rule."

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