Turkish FM challenges untouchable status of media

"I don't find the 'journalists can’t be detained because they don’t commit crimes' approach correct," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.

Turkish FM challenges untouchable status of media
World Bulletin/News Desk
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has challenged the untouchable status of journalists in Turkey and said media figures like other members of Turkish society can also go to jail if they committ crimes.

Cavusoglu made the remarks at a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart Borge Brende Tuesday.

The minister clarified that the recently detained senior media figures were not being investigated for their journalistic activities, but for allegedly being part of a crime syndicate.

"I don't find the 'journalists can’t be detained because they don’t commit crimes' approach correct," he said. "Unfortunately, politicians, artists and sportsmen also commit crimes and, if found guilty, they go to jail," he said.

Cavusoglu also said the detainees were not being called criminals at the moment because allegations against them were yet to be proven.

"According to the chief prosecutor, who is carrying out the investigation, they were not detained due to their ‘journalistic activities,’ but they were taken into custody because of forming an armed crime syndicate," he said.

A police operation was launched Sunday against senior media figures and police officers in 13 provinces across Turkey for allegedly being affiliated with what the Turkish government described as the "parallel state," an alleged group of bureaucrats embedded in the country's institutions, including the judiciary and the police. More than 20 suspects were taken into custody in the operation, including the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s Zaman daily, Ekrem Dumanli; chairman of Samanyolu Media Group Hidayet Karaca; producer Salih Aslan; director Engin Koc of Samanyolu TV, and Makbule Cam Alemdag, a scriptwriter of a TV series.

 About foreign reactions

Cavusoglu denounced a letter by a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that called on the Turkish government to release detained journalists.

"You are talking about the separation of powers and independence of judiciary, but at the same time you order the executive branch to release the detainees," the foreign minister said. "We do not find this kind of statements right, we also do not want any journalists to be detained," he added.

The organization’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, had sent the letter to Cavusoglu on Monday.

“The arrests point to a resurgence in the threats against journalists. They should be released immediately,” Mijatovic wrote in the letter that appeared at OSCE's official website.  

"The arrests once again show that a thorough revision of the laws allowing for the imprisonment of journalists in Turkey is urgent. Laws should not be used to curb dissenting views in a society,” she said.

Cavusoglu also talked about criticism from senior European Union (EU) officials Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, who described Sunday’s police crackdown in Turkey as going against European values.

"The EU harshly criticized the legal process after seeing some journalists were taken into custody and there were some threats to us about stopping the negotiation process," the foreign minister said. "These are not sincere statements, they are against the sincere process that Turkey built with the EU," he said.

"We want to join the EU and speed up the negotiations. We have made very important reforms, especially in the freedom of expression and freedom of the press during the last 12 years, and we will do it further," Cavusogu said.

"We prepared the 2015- 2019 Action Plan and announced that we will work in these fields. We want more chapters to be opened and we want to open the chapter about judiciary and fundamental rights," he added.

Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters, and this involves harmonizing legislation with the Union and the adoption of its standards in order to join the bloc.

So far, 14 chapters have been opened for negotiation, while 17 remain blocked, and a further four have yet to be discussed. Only one new chapter has been opened in the past three years.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Aralık 2014, 16:29