Biden highlights need for freedom of speech in Turkey
US Vice President Biden (C) visits the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to meet with Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Jan. 23, highlighted the need for freedom of speech and press in his address to NGOs and reporters on Jan. 22, as he also backed a group academics who are under fire after a petition.
“Two of the most important basic rights we Americans believe and your constitution says are basic, fundamental rights,” Biden said.
“If you don’t have an ability to express your opinion, to criticize a policy, to offer competing ideas without fear of intimidation or retribution, the country is robbed of opportunity and the country is being robbed of possibilities,” he said.
Biden said that free expression and a strong Turkish democracy matter “not only to Turks but to America.”
During his speech, Biden mentioned Turkey’s occasional moves to restrict social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
“When internet freedom is curtailed and social media sites like YouTube or Twitter are shut down and more than 1,000 academics are accused of treason simply by signing a petition, that’s not the kind of example that needs to be set in the region,” he said.
Last week, a collection of university lecturers called the Group of Academics for Peace issued a manifesto calling for end to fighting in southeast Turkey.
The region has witnessed security curfews and several towns have been cut off as the police and military battle the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
More than a dozen academics were detained over the petition, which accused the state of violating human rights.
President Erdoğan accused these academics of “making propaganda” for the PKK.
The U.S. vice president also offered his condolences on the death of Mustafa Koç, chairman of Turkish’s biggest industrial conglomerate, Koç Holding.