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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    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 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 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.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora