Turkish president’s office says ‘insulting president not within freedom of expression’

Turkish president’s office says ‘insulting president not within freedom of expression’

Turkish president’s office says ‘insulting president not within freedom of expression’

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The President’s Office has dismissed growing criticism of a police raid on a Turkish magazine over its cover bearing a montage picture of a smiling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan taking a “selfie” in front of the coffin of a soldier, claiming that “insults” cannot be considered part of freedom of expression.

“It is never possible to consider insulting the presidential office within freedom of expression,” Presidency Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told reporters at a press conference on Sept. 15 in response to questions concerning the raid on the magazine on Sept. 14.

“Attacking the presidential office to score small political goals with small political estimations is not politics. Trying to become the center of attention by attacking the presidency and our president’s personality and his family is not journalism. It is often just common activism or militarism,” Kalın added.

According to the presidential spokesperson, “there is a vibrant environment of debate in Turkey” and “all kinds of views can be voiced comfortably.”

Kalın stressed that Turkey is currently passing through a sensitive period in which the security forces are battling “terror,” referring to the growing conflict between the security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey has been hit by waves of daily violence between the PKK and security forces in the predominantly Kurdish populated southeast, since a de facto cease-fire broke down in July. 

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, earlier voiced concern over the raids against Nokta.

“Ban, raids and arrest at Nokta worsen an already worrying situation [of] freedom of expression in Turkey. Authorities must keep the media free,” Muižnieks tweeted via his official Twitter account on Sept. 14.

An Istanbul prosecutor’s office banned distribution of the latest edition of Nokta and ordered raids on its offices on charges of “insulting the Turkish president” and “making terrorist propaganda,” after the magazine’s cover was published online, the magazine said in a statement. Nokta’s office in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood was then raided by police in the early hourse of Sept. 14.

“Our cover that prompted the police raid may be harsh, disturbing or even cruel. [But] this is not a crime for a media institution, this is our form of speech,” the statement said. 

The cover depicted a grinning Erdoğan in shirt-sleeves taking a selfie, in front of a coffin draped in the red Turkish flag being borne along in state by soldiers. 

It was apparently an allusion to comments made by Erdoğan at the funeral of a soldier recently killed in clashes with the PKK, stating that the families of soldiers killed by PKK militants should be “happy” about their martyrdom. 

“How happy is his family and all his close relatives. [He] has reached a very sacred place,” the president was widely quoted as saying by Turkish media.