News / Europe

    Turkish Journalist Arrests Raise Concern About Media Freedom

    Hundreds of journalists protest the detention of journalists in Ankara, Turkey. (File Photo - March 19, 2011)
    Hundreds of journalists protest the detention of journalists in Ankara, Turkey. (File Photo - March 19, 2011)
    Dorian Jones

    Turkey has detained several journalists as part of an anti-terror probe.

    Turkish news channels broadcast pictures of journalists being taken into police custody, after their homes were raided early Tuesday. The detentions are part of an anti-terror probe into what prosecutors allege is the "press and propaganda wing" of the banned Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party. A pro-Kurdish newspaper was also raided.

    Worrying trend

    The Turkish representative for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, Emma Sinclair Webb, says the latest detentions are part of a worrying trend.

    "The arrests represent a further clampdown on dissenting critical voices in Turkey," said Webb. "This has become a pattern, of the last few months. It has intensified since the general election. The trouble with Turkey's terrorism laws is that [they are] so widely drawn and vague that any of us can find ourselves suspect in terrorism investigation."   

    But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defends the ongoing probe, even making a thinly veiled threat against its critics, saying they should question their motives.

    The probe, and another alleged conspiracy linked to the military called Ergenekon, have resulted in scores of journalists being jailed. The scale of the detentions has prompted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to intervene.

    Detentions

    OSCE representative for media freedom Dunja Mijatović met earlier this month with government officials.

    "There are more people put in prison. Very long detention period - more than 1,000 days, sentences of 166 years in prison. So that in the end, we had to intervene," said Mijatović.  "Of course, this issue of imprisonment, it cannot be treated as a technical issue because we are talking about people behind bars, about human beings. My office clearly spelled out to the government we do not [want] in anyway to interfere [with] the legitimate right of any government to fight terrorism. But this case of 66, at the moment, people that are journalists that are in prison in Turkey needs very urgent remedies."

    Mijatović says she received commitments from the government to reform, but was not given a timetable for change. The OSCE concern follows that of the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join. The EU annual report on Turkey, published in October, criticized Ankara about freedom of the press.

    Government's position

    Egemen Bagis, Turkish State Minister and chief negotiator for Turkey in accession talks with the European Union during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary. (File Photo)
    Egemen Bagis, Turkish State Minister and chief negotiator for Turkey in accession talks with the European Union during a press conference in Budapest, Hungary. (File Photo)

    But Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis dismissed the criticisms.

    "If you consider the report to be a photo of Turkey, what I can say is the model of the camera that took the picture of Turkey is an old model," said Bagis. "I think it is time for Europe to change the lens, and to focus better."

    Earlier this month, Turkey signed a protocol with Russia to combat what both countries claim is the politicization of human rights by international bodies such as the OSCE. The Turkish government argues that rather than restricting media freedom, it has allowed more critical reporting on the military, once a taboo subject.

    Political columnist Kadri Gurcel for the Turkish daily Milliyet acknowledges such reforms, but argues that old taboos have merely been replaced by new ones.

    "There are new [taboos] erected," said Gurcel. "Reporting has become a quite difficult and ambiguous affair in Turkey. Because reporting on questions that the government does not wish anything reported on, it has become very risky."

    The government's ending of the once omnipotent army's political power has seen Turkey being presented by some as a role model for emerging democracies of the Arab spring and the wider region.

    Intimidation

    But former Turkish ambassador and teacher of international relations at Kultur University, Murat Bilhan, says the journalist detentions and the resulting intimidation in the wider society is a worrying sign about what direction Turkey is heading. He says the removal of democratic checks on the government could have major regional repercussions.

    "Turkey is changing to a civilian dictatorship now," said Bilhan. "If this continues like that, our allies and partners will feel [it] to their bones. Maybe hostile Turkey, more 'Arabized' Turkey, Turkey changing its identity."

    The government dismisses such concerns, saying it is defending democracy, rather than threatening it.  But with more journalists jailed nearly every month, observers say that argument will prove increasingly hard to sustain.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora