ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
There should be no thought crimes in Turkey and no one should be behind bars for what she or he thinks or says, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey has said, expressing Washington’s concerns about the deteriorating freedom of expression in Turkey.
“I continue to believe that it’s one of the fundamental areas where Turkey needs to pay attention if it’s to emerge absolutely where Turks want the country emerge: as a hundred-percent, first-class, world-standard democracy,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told Ankara
bureau chiefs yesterday.
Ricciardone was subjected to a harsh reaction from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
when he openly criticized the government’s stance on press freedom. Erdoğan called the ambassador a “rookie,” and criticized him for remaining under the influence of certain circles.
“On freedom of expression, my own views and advocacy for that have not diminished,” he said. “I hope you don’t feel they have diminished or changed.”
Freedom of expression remains an issue between Turkey and the U.S., and it was raised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her talks with Turkish officials over the weekend, Ricciardone said.
“The secretary of state deeply cares about it. I can tell you she did it in a very respectful, supportive and positive way, but she spoke very much from the heart and very clearly. She believes that this something very important to Turkey and to Turks,” he said.
The concern is not limited to the freedom of expression, Ricciardone said, but also extends to access to justice.
“I have heard Turkish leaders in the government and in the opposition expressing their concerns about what needs to be done in terms of access to justice,” he said.
The Turkish government is frequently criticized by foreign governments and media for the deteriorated freedom of the media and the growing number of journalists and academics held under arrest.