Freedom of press a personal redline, Turkish PM tells CNN’s Amanpour

Freedom of press a personal redline, Turkish PM tells CNN’s Amanpour

Freedom of press a personal redline, Turkish PM tells CNN’s Amanpour Freedom of the press and intellectual freedoms are personal redlines, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour on Nov. 9, in response to a question over concerns of a crackdown on the press by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“First of all, I was a columnist in the 1990s when I was in academic life. So freedom of the press and intellectual freedom are redlines for me,” Davutoğlu said. “If there’s an attack on any intellectual or columnist or a journalist, I will be the advocate of that. I can assure you this,” he added. 

In his answer, Davutoğlu rebuffed claims the Turkish government hindered journalistic activities and gave an example of a newspaper headline which he considered a “provocation.”

When asked about Former President Abdullah Gül’s remarks on the need to upgrade Turkish democracy, Davutoğlu admitted more had to be done. 

“We need to do more. And my first agenda [item] will be tomorrow; I will have meetings with our executive board. [There] will be new reforms, political and economic reforms,” he said, adding the reforms will be declared in the next two weeks. 

Presidential system in Turkey

Amanpour also touched upon the AKP’s insistence on changing the constitution and adopting a presidential system, asking why Erdoğan sought additional powers. 

Denying the proposal to change the system was made to ensure additional powers to Erdoğan, Davutoğlu argued the current constitution was ill-functioning “because it was a product of a military coup d’état.”

“I, as the chairman of the governing party, will be meeting with all the opposition leaders for a constitution based on individual rights, freedom, a balance between freedom and security, pluralism, separation of power,” he stated, pledging to form a new political mentality and culture.

Turkey’s attitude towards the future of Syria

As part of the interview, Amanpour also questioned Turkey’s attitude towards the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, especially in terms of approving a transition with President Bashar al-Assad in power, considering the change in the standing of the United States and Europe. 

Davutoğlu denied Amanpour’s statement that the United States and Turkey’s other allies advocated al-Assad staying in power during the transition period. 

“[…] The question is not how long [al-]Assad will stay. The question is when and how [al-]Assad will go,” he said. 

Millions of Syrian refugees would not admit to returning to Syria even after peace is ensured if al-Assad “stays in power in Damascus,” Davutoğlu argued. 

He also dismissed the possibility of empowering the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a militant organization fighting ISIL in Syria, which the Turkish prime minister defined as “the wing of [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK.”

Davutoğlu said the anti-ISIL coalition could arm either the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or the Peshmerga to fight the jihadist group on the ground.

“We will not and we cannot and we will not tolerate any help to any PKK-related groups in Syria or in Iraq,” Davutoğlu said, underlining the PKK has been attacking Turkish civilians and soldiers alike. 

Meanwhile, the prime minister did not outright reject the possibility of Turkey sending ground forces into Syria, discussing Turkey is “ready to take part in all senses” in case of an integrated strategy which included an air campaign and ground troops.