Senior US diplomat issues criticism on restrictions in Turkish media
Tolga Tanış WASHINGTON / Hürriyet
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz. AA PhotoA senior U.S. diplomat has issued a sharp criticism on restrictions in Turkey’s media, saying democracies function best when they have free and independent press.
“There is need to have, as there once was, a vibrant, vigorous, free, and independent press in Turkey,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Douglas Frantz, told reporters at the Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing on May 1.
“Democracies function best when they have free and independent press, when they have a freedom of expression that extends to everyone regardless of their political persuasion, regardless of their ethnic background. And I think what we have seen over the past few months, certainly since Dec. 17  in Turkey, is some backsliding,” Frantz said, adding that this causes concern in Washington.
“And backsliding that causes concern here in Washington with the Obama administration. Because that concern is one of the reasons that I went over to Istanbul a couple of weeks ago and sat down with columnists there and gave them a very long and detailed on-the-record interview about the issues,” Frantz said. His comment came on the same day as Freedom House demoted Turkey from the ranks of the “partly free” to the unenviable position of “not free” in its latest country report.
“I worry also about more structural changes, in terms of the ownership, within the Turkish media. And I worry about the long-term effect of that. I saw polarization in Turkish media that did not exist when I lived and worked there [2000-2005]. So that is very troubling,” he said. “And equally troubling,” Frantz added, “losing your job for doing your job is wrong. That is something certainly we tried to convey to Turkey as friends and partners. Part of your responsibility as a friend, and an ally, and a NATO partner of Turkey and any other country, is to speak out when you see your friends making what you feel are mistakes.”