Turkey rejects EU's 'red line' over press freedom
Turkey firmly rejected the EU's condemnation of the ongoing crackdown on free speech and opposition parties in the country, with PM Binali Yildirim saying "Brother, we do not care about your red line." The EU had earlier stated that Turkey crossed a "red line" against freedom of expression in country, after senior staff of an opposition newspaper were detained by police.
Fetullah Gulen, an American-Muslim-relic is accused of starting an Islam-movement, which attempted to thrash the Turkish government. The movement is referred to as 'Gulenist Terror Organization' in Turkey. Turkish media-house Feza Gazetecilik is closely associated with this Islam movement.
The police had raided many media houses related to Fethullah Gulen in Turkey. In the raids, more than 23 people including producers and journalists had been detained in the country. Reportedly, Zaman newspaper's parent organization was associated with Gulen's anti-national-movement, which aimed at bringing Turkish-President, Erdogan's government down. Chiefs of Zaman, a leading newspaper and Samanyolu TV were among the detained Turkish media persons.
The Turkish police had stormed the headquarters of Zaman, a leading daily in Turkey and attacked the building with water cannons. Reportedly, the police officials had taken away many journalists handcuffed from the building. Zaman was linked to Fethullah Gulen, who was accused of running a terrorist organization. This action taken by the Turkish government had worsened the press freedom in Turkey.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the US State Department, expressed concern over the situation of deteriorating press freedom in Turkey. He urged the authorities to ensure their actions don't come in the way of free speech and press freedom.
Two pro-government media outlets, Yeni Safak and Yeni Akit were attacked on 11 February early morning. Four masked men had allegedly vandalized the Yeni Safak office with crude flammable-liquids and opened fire with long-barreled weapons at the entrance of the building erupting fire. While the police and fire teams were attending to the scene, there was a similar attack on the Yeni Akit office.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Numan Kurtulmus had condemned the attacks and held the Kurdistan Workers' Party of Turkey responsible for the attacks. He ordered an immediate investigation into the incidents.
An Istanbul court had ordered that Fetullah Gulen-linked-media-outlets would be put under the control of a panel of government appointed trustees. The court could also appoint new staff to replace the current management and editorial department of the newspaper organization which was accused of terrorist-propaganda. Freedom's House, a US-based-watchdog criticized the court-ruling for appointing government-trustees for a private media-house and violating the press freedom.
Following the court's order, management-trustees entered the Feza Gazetecilik group headquarters under police supervision on 5 March 2016. The police used tear-gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters gathered outside Zaman HQ. Media-outlets like Turkish Cihan News Agency, Today's Zaman, Zaman daily, Aksiyon magazine, and Zaman Kitap work under Feza Gazatecilik. The government's move worsened the situation of the free press in Turkey.
In an intensification of the crackdown against suspected sympathizers of the Gulen movement, President Erdogan fired over 10,000 civil servants and shut down 15 media houses through two decrees. Opposition parties condemned the move, calling Erdogan's crackdown "a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy." Those removed from their posts include academicians, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts.