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European Parliament adopts critical report on Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/9/2011 12:00:00 AM | FULYA ÖZERKAN

The European Parliament expressed serious doubts about press freedom in Turkey in a criticism-laden report it adopted Wednesday. (UPDATED)

The European Parliament expressed serious doubts about press freedom in Turkey in a criticism-laden report it adopted Wednesday. It said it was closely following the latest arrests of journalists, including Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, for alleged links to a plot to topple the government.

The European Parliament “is concerned about the deterioration in freedom of the press, about certain acts of censorship and about growing self-censorship within the Turkish media, including on the Internet [and] calls on the Turkish government to uphold the principles of press freedom,” said the non-binding report penned by the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, a Dutch Christian Democrat politician.

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Click here to read the European Parliament's resolution on Turkey's 2010 progress report

The European Parliament has also decided “to closely follow the cases of Nedim Şener, Ahmet Şık and other journalists facing police or judicial harassment,” according to the report, the most critical drafted by the European body in recent years.

This motion to insert this amendment into the report was verbally given by Oomen-Ruijten and adopted following a police raid on the homes of a group of journalists last week, a move that drew strong criticism from the European Union, the United States and human-rights organizations. Some 38 proposals were submitted for amendments to the critical report at a session Tuesday.

Critics say the arrests are part of a bid to silence voices ahead of the June 12 general elections, which the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is expected to win.

The Foreign Ministry said in a written statement Wednesday that the report adopted by the European Parliament contained one-sided elements that are not in line with reality and cannot be accepted by Turkey. “As a country negotiating with the EU, Turkey expects the European Parliament to be fair and objective and to display the seriousness required by its function.”

The report stressed that an independent press is crucial for a democratic society and pointed, in this context, to the essential role of the judiciary in protecting and enhancing press freedom, thereby guaranteeing public space for free debate and contributing to the proper functioning of the system of checks and balances.

It underscored the need for adoption of a new media law addressing issues of independence, ownership and administrative control and said the European Parliament had decided to closely follow the cases of Şener, Şık and other journalists facing police or judicial harassment.

[HH] CHP: Toughest report ever

The European Parliament’s latest report is the toughest-worded document drafted since Turkey and the EU began formal accession negotiations in 2005, the Brussels chief of the main opposition party said Wednesday.

“Despite the fact that the European Parliament and other EU institutions cannot analyze Turkey’s situation correctly, taking into consideration the whole of events and the cause-effect relationship, the scene painted by Brussels on the situation today is saddening,” Kader Sevinç, the Brussels representative of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview.

Sevinç sent a written note to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu briefing him about the content of the report.

“Unfortunately, the CHP’s reservations about the government-led constitutional amendments proved right: Those responsible for the Sept. 12 [1980] military coup cannot be tried, judge and prosecutor appointments have been politicized, authoritarian tendencies have grown stronger, pressure on the media has increased, freedoms are being limited and social polarization is deepening,” Sevinç told the Daily News.

“We see in the report that the importance of these issues is becoming better understood by the European Parliament, which is directly elected by the EU public,” she said.

The Brussels chief criticized the AKP for not doing enough to open the three EU accession-negotiation chapters – those on competition, social policy and public procurement – that carry no political baggage.

“The government remains unwilling to open the social policy and competition chapters because there is a need for reforms on state aid, the unregistered economy, gender equality at work and child labor,” said Sevinç.

Turkey has thus far opened 13 chapters in its negotiations with the European bloc. The talks have slowed down since 2005 due to Ankara’s refusal to open its ports to shipping from Greek Cyprus as well as stiff opposition from some member states, including France.

[HH] CHP establishes shadow team

Sevinç said the CHP was closely following Turkey’s accession process and had established a “shadow CHP team monitoring EU negotiations.” The team, led by Sevinç, is following each and every negotiating chapter in the Turkish-EU talks and briefing Kılıçdaroğlu about the progress made.

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