German Chancellor Angela Merkel today (2 November) called Turkey’s latest arrests of opposition newspaper journalists “highly alarming” and said they would impact Ankara’s EU membership negotiations.
“For me and the entire government, it is highly alarming that freedom of the press and speech are being restricted again and again,” she said after Turkey detained at least a dozen journalists and executives from Cumhuriyet.
Turkish police on Monday (31 October) detained the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet — a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — as Ankara widens a crackdown on opposition media.
“And the latest example of this already very sad trend is what happened to the reporters and chief editor of Cumhuriyet,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann.
“We have great doubts that it complied with the rule of law,” she added.
“The journalists can be certain of our solidarity, just like all the others in Turkey who, under difficult conditions, are active for freedom of the press and speech,” Merkel said, adding that the German ambassador had visited the Cumhuriyet newsroom on Tuesday (1 November).
The EU has joined a visit of diplomatic missions accredited in Turkey to Cumhuriyet, to hear about recent developments and express support for media pluralism in Turkey.
“The issue will obviously play a central role in membership negotiations with the European Union, so the situation is alarming,” added Merkel.
Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has tweeted today to mark the International day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. However, he didn’t mention Turkey.
In their effort to stem the refugee crisis, the EU has betrayed Turkish journalists and ordinary citizens, who have courageously stood up to the authoritarian plans of the government, journalistic organisations said yesterday (15 December).
A leading Turkish newspaper which had staunchly opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan printed yesterday (6 March) its first new edition since its seizure by authorities, strongly supporting the government line.
A delegation led by the President of the Party of European Socialists Sergei Stanishev was in Turkey on 31 October meeting the leaders of PES associate member parties CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş and various democratic organisations.
The delegation visited both Diyarbakir and Ankara to learn first-hand about the situation on human rights, democracy and rule of law as a consequences of recent policies conducted by the government.
Stanishev said: "We have the impression that the Turkish leadership is labelling an increasing number of people as 'criminals' simply because they express dissent to the government policies or, furthermore, because they are believed to dissent. [...] "We clearly and immediately condemned the coup attempt this summer, as our member parties here did, showing our fullest support to the democratic institutions of the country. However now it seems that the government creates an environment which look closer to an authoritarian regime rather than a functioning democracy. We believe instead that cracking on the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary will not strengthen democracy in Turkey but rather will undermine it. President Erdogan is attacking the same principles, enshrined in the Turkish Constitution that he, and all of us, stood for in the night of the coup.”