British consul-general urges Turkey to support free media ‘without ifs or buts’

British consul-general urges Turkey to support free media ‘without ifs or buts’

British consul-general urges Turkey to support free media ‘without ifs or buts’

DHA Photo

British Consul-General to Turkey in Istanbul Leigh Turner has published a blog post following the attack on Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, calling on Turkey to support media freedom and freedom of expression “without any ifs or buts.”

Below is Turner’s blog post, published on Oct. 2, titled “Turkey: media freedom, stability and prosperity.”

"A politically motivated protest outside a newspaper office results in physical damage and intimidation.  Politicians and media make threats against specific individuals.  Days later, one of those individuals – Ahmet Hakan, a prominent journalist – is physically attacked, and hospitalised.

These developments are wrong in themselves.  They are also terrible for Turkey’s image overseas; and a negative factor in attracting the highly mobile inward investment which Turkey, like every country, needs to grow its economy.

My 2013 blog World Press Freedom Index: Turkey noted that the 2013 World Press Freedom Index put Turkey in 154th place out of 179 countries.  I noted that it was of course open to governments to dispute the findings of independent NGOs.  But for a country proud of its democratic traditions and ambitious to be a regional leader, 154th place in such an index was not where you wanted to be.

My 2013 blog Turkey, Iceland, press freedom, Google noted the balance which all countries must strike between media freedoms and security concerns.  I noted Turkey’s goal to increase average income levels to $25,000 by 2023, including by making Turkey a high-tech hub for the region.  I noted that this would be a challenge if Turkey was perceived as a country where the internet was tightly controlled.

The World Press Freedom Index for 2014 placed Turkey unchanged at 154th, and for 2015 at 149th place, out of 180 countries.

Media freedom and freedom of expression really matter.  Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are essential to peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies.  Imagine a country run on the opposite principles.

None of this is easy.  The fact that even Iceland – 8th in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014 – finds it tough to judge the limits of media freedom shows how challenging the issue is for any country.  Getting the balance right is central to the process of building long-term prosperity and political stability.

It is important and heartening that Turkish politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have condemned the attack on Ahmet Hakan.  All of us, whether politicians, diplomats or representatives of the media, should continue to state clearly and consistently our support for freedom of expression, without any ifs or buts; and our abhorrence of all forms of violence directed against the media – and the threats and intimidation that encourage it."