Council of Europe ‘concerned’ about media restrictions in Turkey

Council of Europe ‘concerned’ about media restrictions in Turkey

Council of Europe ‘concerned’ about media restrictions in Turkey

An employee of Zaman newspaper holds a chain during a protest at the courtyard of the newspaper in Istanbul, Turkey March 4, 2016. REUTERS Photo

The Council of Europe has expressed “serious concerns” over the recent media restrictions in Turkey in the wake of a court ruling which placed a government-critical media group under the administration of trustees.

“The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] expresses its serious concern at recent developments in Turkey with respect to restrictions on media freedom and access to pluralistic information,” PACE’s monitoring committee said at a meeting in Strasbourg on March 9, expressing concerns over challenges to the decisions issued by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

The committee referred to the recent seizure of a media group considered to be linked to U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and leading lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have accused of forming and heading a terrorist organization to topple the government with Gülen’s sympathizers working in the country’s police force and other state institutions.

Underscoring what it called “the erosion” of the rule of law in Turkey as worrying, the committee also criticized the challenges the Constitutional Court has faced over one of its recent rulings that led to the release of two Turkish journalists who spent 92 days under pre-trial arrest over a news story citing state-owned trucks allegedly carrying weapons to Syria.

“The committee is concerned that these developments could undermine Turkey’s fulfillment of its obligations towards the Council of Europe, and hamper the democratic progress sought by the country and its efforts to draft a civilian constitution,” the committee said, recalling that Turkey was a founding member of the Council of Europe and remains a strategic partner for Europe.