U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf speaks during a press briefing in Washington. AA Photo
Washington June 3 dismissed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s accusations targeting CNN International correspondent Ivan Watson over his coverage on the Gezi protests. Erdoğan questioned CNN’s impartiality, labeling Watson “an agent” and blasting him for “wanting to stir up trouble in Turkey.”
“This is a ridiculous accusation,” U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said during a daily press briefing on June 3.
“I would say that [CNN] are nothing except for independent and non-biased media. We strongly support freedom of the press in Turkey, including Ivan Watson from CNN being able to report, and developments have continued to raise our concerns,” she said.
Harf also said Washington was “closely monitoring” the authorities’ response to demonstrations staged to mark the first anniversary of last year’s nationwide Gezi protests.
“We are concerned in some instances; authorities detained peaceful protesters and prevented others from participating in peaceful demonstrations as well,” she said.
Erdoğan once again slammed the Gezi demonstrators June 3, particularly denouncing the coverage of foreign media after Watson was briefly detained while reporting on the protests in Istanbul on air on May 31.
“That CNN International lackey is trying to do something here. He gave an eight-hour broadcast during last year’s Gezi events. Why? To stir up trouble in my country. This year, they have been caught red-handed,” said Erdoğan, standing behind Watson’s detention.
“Those [reporters] don’t have anything to do with independent and impartial media. They have been given tasks. They are agents,” he added.
The U.S. broadcaster responded with a statement to daily Radikal on June 3 categorically denying any bias in the reporting. “We stand unequivocally by our reporting from Turkey, which has been and continues to be fair, factual and impartial,” CNN’s statement said.
Police once again staged brutal crackdowns, resorting to water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, as thousands gathered mainly in Istanbul and Ankara, leaving many protesters injured.