News / Europe

Press Freedom Concerns in Turkey Worry EU Negotiators

Turkey's FM Ahmet Davutoglu (L) confers with United Arab Emirates' (UAE) FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during the Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis, February 24, 2012
Turkey's FM Ahmet Davutoglu (L) confers with United Arab Emirates' (UAE) FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during the Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis, February 24, 2012
Dorian Jones

A joint European Union-Turkish parliamentary committee is meeting to look at the EU's growing concern over human rights and Turkey's stalled EU bid.  But, Turkey's growing regional importance is now a major factor in the talks.

The joint committee brings together Turkish and European parliamentarians to help in Ankara's bid to join the European Union.  Human rights and judicial reform dominated two days of talks in Istanbul.  Sajjid Karim, a European parliamentary deputy on the committee, expressed alarm at what he says is a deteriorating human rights and freedom of the press situation and Turkish government indifference.

"I am left unconvinced that at a governmental that due and proper consideration is being given for the numbers of people who are actually detained, for their journalistic activities," said Karim. " We were provided with a figure of 107.  I was also surprised to hear that the way that the definition of terror crimes is working, currently there are approximately 12,000 people who [are] in detention as a result of that."

Most of the detentions have been part of the Turkish state's battle against the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.  Brussels, along with human rights groups, have criticized the nature of the Turkish anti-terror laws which have resulted in imprisonment of many people not involved in violence.

But the Turkish minister of justice, Sadullah Ergin, who attended Friday's meeting, claimed only a dozen people are in jail for journalism activities and that only 1,000 or so are detained under the anti-terror law. Ergin, however, acknowledged reform is needed and said he is committed to introduce change.

He says they have introduced many reforms to address problems within the judiciary and are committed to do more in consultation with the EU and other bodies.  He said no one should doubt Turkey's commitment to reform.

But Turkish opposition members of parliament attending the meeting say that with every reform introduced by the government since 2005, the numbers of arrests and detentions of both journalists and political activists have increased.  The claim has been supported by international human rights groups like Reporters Without Borders.

The head of the joint parliamentary group, Helene Flaurtre, welcomed Turkish reforms and said international considerations have to be taken into account.

Flaurtre says yes, the EU is very vigilant on human rights but she does not want to take a negative view of Turkey.   She says there is now a successful engagement with the Turkish government and that when one looks at the situation in Syria and the wider Arab world, it would be disastrous if relations broke down between Turkey and the EU.

Ankara has been at the forefront of condemning Damascus's crackdown on dissent and is working closely with both Brussels and Washington in coordinating efforts in support of the Syrian opposition.

But a member of the joint parliamentary committee, who is the spokesman for Turkish affairs for the socialist bloc of the European Parliament, worries that criticism of Ankara is being muted both in Europe and the United States.  Richard Howitt cites Turkey's growing role in opposing the Syrian government.

"I think there it is a fair question to say is there a danger of a trade off," said Howitt. "That we are not asking harder questions as we should be.  That a blind eye is being turned towards some of the escalation of problems in relation to the failure of the judiciary, the arbitrary [nature)]of the arrests, the lack of freedom of expression within the country.  And that of course can never be justified.  And as far as Europe is concerned, there are those who won't justify that."  

International human rights groups, like U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, have raised similar concerns.  But with Damascus intensifying its crackdown on dissent, and Turkey, which is increasingly being seen as playing a potentially crucial role in supporting the opposition, observers say there is likely to be little incentive either in Brussels or Washington to challenge Ankara on its domestic policy.  

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid