US keeps close eye on jailed journalists: Ricciardone

US keeps close eye on jailed journalists: Ricciardone

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US keeps close eye on jailed journalists: Ricciardone

Ricciardone says he supports the target of criticism in CPJ report. AA photo

While hosting a reception for a board member of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone said he supported the target of criticism in a recent press freedom report issued by the CPJ, which harshly condemned Turkey over the number of journalists behind bars, but added that he remained impartial on the content.

The U.S. government had presented its analysis of the situation in an annual report on human rights and now the State Department was in the process of preparing one for next year, Ricciardone told journalists at the reception late Nov. 7, upon a question about his administration’s official line in regards to jailed journalists in Turkey.

Stressing that he was very interested in Turkish journalists’ views on this subject, the ambassador said “Your work is so important for your country. Please keep up your professionalism. Ask me lots of questions, ask your officials lots of questions, be aggressive, always honest, and you’ll carry your country forward.”

Speaking at the a reception in honor of Kati Marton, author and CPJ board member, Ricciardone said he supported the target of the report, but that the embassy remains impartial on the content. “There is a climate of fear [in Turkey] that concerns us,” Marton told a group of journalists.

“So we felt that it was the right time before it got worse as Turkey is now in a middle of drafting a new constitution. We thought that this was the right time to make our case. We don’t accept governments be enthusiastic about our work,” she said.

Meeting with Ergin

Citing her meeting with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin in Ankara after the report was published, Marton said the minister was critical about the “methodology and quotation marks” of the report.“He felt that we should have come to him before we published. He has a point but that’s not how we work, “the CPJ author said. Underlining “jail does not change anybody’s mind, [it] strengthens convictions,” Marton said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knew that because he was in prison too.

“It’s very tricky to begin to control speech, what is acceptable and what is not. Telling off color, obscene anecdotes are acceptable at the highest levels and speaking about Kurds is not. It’s a very slippery [slope],” she said in an apparent reference to a recent polemic between the prime minister and main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during which they both used obscene phrases of “The ill-fated Bedouin will be f– by polar bears in the desert” proverb.

Asked if he approves the methodology of the report, Ambassador Ricciardone said Ergin’s question was “fare.”