EU Parliament draft report criticizes Turkey over restrictions on press freedom

EU Parliament draft report criticizes Turkey over restrictions on press freedom

Dilara Sarı - Selim Akan ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
EU Parliament draft report criticizes Turkey over restrictions on press freedom

EU Commission President Barroso (L) speaks with European Parliament President Schulz in this photo. AFP photo

A draft report prepared by the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) has criticized the Turkish government over media freedom, citing the limited coverage of Gezi protests, and noted concerns in Turkish society about flaws in the Ergenekon case. The draft, prepared by Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, also welcomes the democratization package presented by the government in September and the opening of Chapter 22 with the bloc.

The draft expresses concerns at the very limited coverage of the Gezi Park events by Turkish media and the dismissal of journalists who criticized the government’s reactions to such events, recalling that freedom of expression and media pluralism are at the heart of European values and that an independent press is crucial to a democratic society.

It reiterates once again its concern at the fact that most media are owned by and concentrated in, large conglomerates with a wide range of business interests and points out to the worrying widespread phenomenon of self-censorship by media owners and journalists; expresses concern at the particularly high number of journalists currently in pre-trial detention and calls on Turkey’s judicial authorities to review and address these cases as soon as possible.

It also notes the concerns in Turkish society about the excessively wide scope and the shortcomings of the proceedings in the Ergenekon case, which, like in the Sledgehammer case, undermined the acceptance of the ruling. The draft stresses that the KCK case must demonstrate the strength and the proper, independent, impartial and transparent functioning of Turkey’s democratic institutions and judiciary, as well as the firm, unconditional commitment to respect for fundamental rights. The case of KCK, the urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), began in 2011 with a series of arrests, including the arrests of media employees and journalists.

Turkey: Strategic partner

The draft meanwhile, welcomes the 2013 Progress Report on Turkey and shares the Commission’s conclusion that Turkey is a strategic partner for the European Union. It also stresses the importance of achieving a common understanding between Turkey and the EU on the relevance for both the EU and Turkey of the readmission agreement and the roadmap leading to visa liberalization. 

It stresses the urgent need for further progress in implementing the 2010 constitutional amendments, in particular the adoption of laws on the protection of personal data and military justice, and of laws introducing affirmative-action measures to promote gender equality. The draft also welcomes the democratization package presented by the Government on Sept. 30 2013 and calls on the Government to duly consult the opposition and relevant civil society organizations in the preparation of the implementing legislation and to continue with its reform efforts towards revision of the electoral system.

The report also reaffirms its support to the Commission’s new approach of opening Chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice and home affairs) early in the negotiation process and closing them at the end while welcoming the opening of Chapter 22.