International press group calls on Turkey to avoid ‘dangerous’ rhetoric

International press group calls on Turkey to avoid ‘dangerous’ rhetoric

International press group calls on Turkey to avoid ‘dangerous’ rhetoric

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visits the Soma mine a day after the mining accident that has claimed 301 workers' lives, May 14. AA Photo

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has called on the Turkish authorities and government supporters to avoid “dangerous” rhetoric in the aftermath of Turkey’s worst ever mining disaster.

In a statement released on May 22, the IPI mentioned the many threats that Hasnain Kazim, an Istanbul-based correspondent for Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, and BBC Turkish reporter Rengin Arslan received after their reports on last week’s deadly accident in the western Turkish town of Soma.

Kazim told Agence France-Presse on May 21 that he was forced to leave Turkey temporarily “to be on the safe side,” after receiving over 10,000 threats, including death threats, over his report on the disaster.

During a recent party meeting, meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated claims made in the pro-government media that Arslan had “hired actors” for the BBC Turkish report in a Soma cemetery.

Both Der Spiegel and BBC Turkish have issued statements defending the veracity of their reports.

The IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), said they were disturbed by the tone of the rhetoric and by the volume of threats against journalists.

“Tensions are already running high following the worst mining disaster in Turkish history,” IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis said. “In this atmosphere, authorities have a special responsibility to avoid dangerous comments that could lead supporters to believe that harassment or intimidation of journalists is in any way justified. We urge the prime minister to show his commitment to press freedom by refraining from such rhetoric and by stating clearly that threats of violence against journalists will not be tolerated.”