Turkey, EU in war of words over media raids

Turkey, EU in war of words over media raids

Turkey, EU in war of words over media raids

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (R) speaks at a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart, Borge Brende. AA Photo

Ankara cannot accept “heavy criticism” from the European Union about mass detentions targeting the media, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, accusing the EU of "not being sincere" in its approach to Turkey’s fight against the "parallel state.”

“The EU harshly criticized the legal process after seeing that some journalists were taken into custody, and there were some threats directed against us about stopping the negotiation process. The EU’s approach is not sincere. It’s at variance with the candid process we have established recently [between Turkey and the EU]," Çavuşoğlu said on Dec. 16 at a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart, Borge Brende.

“Everyone can express dismay over the arrest of journalists and wish to see a transparent judicial process. But we cannot accept such heavy criticism against Turkey and its government after the beginning of a judicial process,” he added.

Çavuşoğlu said that according to the chief prosecutor, the detained senior media figures were not being investigated for their journalistic activities, but rather for allegedly being part of a "crime syndicate."

He also denounced a letter penned by a representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which called for the release of the detained journalists.

“You are talking about the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, but at the same time you order the executive branch to release the detainees,” he said.

Police arrested over two dozen people on Dec. 14, including the editor-in-chief of daily Zaman and other media figures, in lightning raids on supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has in recent years gone from being President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ally to his arch foe.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn have condemned the raids as “incompatible with the freedom of media.” However, on Dec. 15, Erdoğan bluntly told the EU to “mind its own business,” in comments that risk causing a major rift with Brussels.

Mogherini, who met with Erdoğan just a week ago during one of the highest-ranking EU visits to Turkey in years, said she was “very surprised” by his reaction so soon after “constructive” talks with the Turkish government, adding that it was “in the Turkish interest to be consistent” with a commitment for a new start in relations with the new executive in Brussels.

Meanwhile, EU Minister Volkan Bozkır informed Hahn about the recent detention wave during a phone call on Dec. 15, according to a statement from Turkey's EU Affairs Ministry.

Bozkır told his counterpart that the detained persons were not being investigated because of their written or oral expressions, stressing that freedom of press in Turkey must not be harmed, said the statement.