US, Europe criticize Turkey over Cumhuriyet raids, detentions
ISTANBULThe detention of executives and columnists from the critical daily Cumhuriyet newspaper has been criticized by officials from the United States and Europe, with the U.S. State Department saying it supports Turkey’s efforts to locate those responsible for the attempted coup, but was deeply concerned by the continuing pressure on the news media.
“The United States is deeply concerned by what appears to be an increase in official pressure on opposition media outlets in Turkey,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference, as he stressed the “diverse expressions of views”
“Democracies become stronger by allowing diverse expressions of views, particularly in difficult times,” he also said.
Another criticism came from the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who wrote on Twitter that the detentions marked the crossing of “yet another red line” against freedom of expression in Turkey.
“The ongoing massive purge seems motivated by political considerations, rather than legal and security rationale,” he said.
Thousands of people have been suspended, dismissed, detained and arrested after the attempted July 15 coup, believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
Executives and columnists of Cumhuriyet were detained in a series of raids on their homes early on Oct. 31, after prosecutors initiated a probe against them on “terrorism” charges. The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office said the operation was based on accusations that the suspects were “committing crimes on behalf of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said: “We have emphasized, and will continue to do so, that press freedom is not just something of great value for us, but central to every democratic state of law.”
John Dalhuisen, the Europe director for rights group Amnesty International, condemned the detentions as a “systematic attempt to silence all critical voices” and described the media crackdown as a “blatant misuse of emergency powers,” calling on Turkish authorities to release journalists in pre-trial detention.
Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland also criticized the raids, saying it was “highly questionable if the raid against Cumhuriyet can be justified as a proportionate measure, even under the state of emergency.”
Kati Piri, the rapporteur of the European Parliament on Turkey, said that “the situation in Turkey is going from bad to worse.”
“Today’s crackdown on Turkey’s oldest independent paper Cumhuriyet is unacceptable. While Turkey faces a real threat of terrorism, by arresting journalists and closing down media outlets this threat is not diminishing. In the European Parliament we unanimously call for the immediate release of all journalists in Turkey. Turkey will only overcome these challenging times if it manages to strengthen its democracy, rather than weaken it as happens now,” she wrote on her Twitter account on Oct. 31, as she added the hashtag “#Journalismisnotacrime.”
Another criticism came from the International Press Institute (IPI), which “condemned in the strongest possible terms Turkish authorities’ moves to silence the country’s last remaining critical media following the closure of 15 Kurdish media outlets on Oct. 29 and the arrests Oct. 31 morning of at least 13 journalists at Turkey’s most prominent secular opposition newspaper, including IPI Board Member Kadri Gürsel.”
“Having now fully discarded the rule of law, the Turkish government is removing the last critical voices from its path. Turkey’s international partners, who have tolerated President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s obvious authoritarian ambitions for far too long, cannot allow these latest actions to proceed with impunity,” the statement said.
In addition, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the detentions and raids, saying it’s the “evidence of the deepening crackdown in Turkey.”
“Targeting one of Turkey’s last independent opposition newspapers with ludicrous charges shows the depths of the Turkish government and president’s crackdown,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director at Human Rights Watch.