Wednesday 17 January 2018

EU pushed to speak out on Turkish media censorship

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Sazan Fraser

The European Union is facing increasing pressure to speak out against the erosion of media freedom in Turkey following the forced take-over of the country's largest-circulation newspaper. However, few expect it to take a bold stance toward Ankara while trying to assure its help in dealing with the migration crisis.

Police used tear gas and water cannons last Friday to storm the headquarters of the Zaman newspaper and enforce the court-ordered seizure of the publication, which is linked to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's top foe, US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Yesterday, hundreds of the paper's supporters staged a second-day of protests outside the building, now surrounded by police fences. They chanted "free press cannot be silenced" and "Zaman cannot be silenced" as riot police used shields and tear gas to push the crowd. The private Dogan news agency reported a number of protesters were hurt.

The Istanbul court's appointment of trustees to manage Zaman and its sister outlets further reduced the number of opposition media organizations in Turkey, which is dominated by pro-government news outlets and where censorship is rife.

It raised alarm bells over the deterioration of rights conditions in the NATO member nation, which also aspires for EU membership, just before a meeting today, in which EU leaders will try to convince Turkey to do more to stop the flow of migrants to Europe.

"The EU countries are preoccupied with their migration crisis, they are no longer concerned by rights violations in Turkey," said Semih Idiz, columnist for the opposition Cumhuriyet and independent Daily Hurriyet newspapers. The Saturday edition of English-language Today's Zaman, published before the forced take-over, printed its entire front page in black with the headline: "Shameful day for free press in Turkey."

Zaman's seizure, which sparked outrage from international rights advocacy groups, was part of a crackdown on Gulen's movement, which the government claims is attempting to topple it.

Sunday Independent

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