Erdo?an says EP report on Turkey ‘unbalanced’

TODAY’S ZAMAN


PM Recep Tayyip Erdo?an

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has slammed a European Parliament report that noted a deterioration in press freedoms and women’s rights in Turkey, saying it was unbalanced and written by people who did not know the country.
“There is no balance in this report. Excuse me, but I believe that people who have prepared this document lack balance as well,” Erdo?an said during a joint news conference in Ankara with the visiting Serbian prime minister late on Thursday.
President Abdullah Gül joined the debate on Friday and said there were some “wrong assessments” within the report. The report notes fundamental reforms and developments in the economy, Gül said. “Besides this, we see that there are some wrong assessments, probably stemming from a lack of information,” Gül added.
In a resolution passed on Wednesday on Turkey’s accession bid, the EP said the recent arrests of journalists could undermine confidence in Turkey’s judiciary and adherence to democratic principles. The report followed the arrests in recent weeks of more than two dozen journalists accused of being part of an ultranationalist group plotting against Erdo?an’s government.
The prime minister said 27 journalists were being held on suspicion of belonging to terrorist organizations and not because of their writings. Erdo?an, who has sounded increasingly impatient over the slow progress made since EU membership negotiations began in 2005, said he saw no need to heed the EP’s report and that Turkey would continue on its own way.

He said the report did not describe the state of freedom of the press in Turkey and that it was “far from reflecting the reality in our country.”

In the eastern Anatolian province of Elaz??, while arguing that Turkey today is much more developed than many EU countries in terms of freedom of the press, State Minister and Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Ba??? warned on Thursday that no one should make a huge mistake by misinterpreting the mission of the press and confusing journalism with criminal efforts involving plots to overthrow a government in a democratic country.

“The debate over the arrest of some journalists has turned into an unjust campaign against the government. The latest arrests have come as part of the judiciary’s own practices. It is a big mistake to link the arrests with our government or party,” Ba??? told Today’s Zaman.

According to the report, the EP is concerned about the lack of progress in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup cases as well as the recent arrests of some journalists as part of the Ergenekon investigation. Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal organization accused of working to overthrow the government. Sledgehammer is a suspected military coup plot that included violent plans such as bombing mosques in ?stanbul and taking down Turkish jets.

The report states that the arrest of renowned journalists such as Nedim ?ener and Ahmet ??k may lead to a lack of confidence in other trials. However, the report said those cases are supposed to strengthen democracy. ?ener and ??k were arrested along with five other individuals last week as part of the Ergenekon investigation.

“They are accused of close links to Ergenekon, which is a clandestine criminal organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government. How can their arrest be evaluated as a [violation of] press freedom?” Ba??? asked.

“I sincerely say that Turkey is much more developed than many EU countries in terms of freedom of the press. If there is nothing to discuss about press freedoms in Europe, or the Western world, then how should we understand the situation of Julian Assange? Why is Assange being tried in court?” he went on saying, referring to the WikiLeaks founder, who is currently free under strict bail conditions in London.

The EP’s rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, who drafted the report, meanwhile, stated that there has been a deterioration in freedom of expression in Turkey. “Freedom of the press is very important for the proper functioning of the checks and balances system,” Oomen-Ruijten was quoted as saying on Thursday.


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