Two Turkish journalists arrested this week for their coverage of arms trafficking to Islamist rebels in Syria urged the European Union not to compromise on human rights, as it seeks an agreement with Ankara to help stem refugee flows to Europe.
European diplomats have been measured in their criticism of media freedom in Turkey, and President Tayyip Erdo?an’s increasingly authoritarian rule, recognizing the West needs Turkish help on the migrant crisis, and as an ally in the US-led coalition against Islamic State.
European and Turkish officials hope EU leaders and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu will sign a deal to ease the migrant crisis today (29 November).
Europe is hoping to finalise a deal with Ankara – a NATO member and a candidate for EU membership – on the refugee crisis at a summit this weekend.
Writing from Silivri prison near Istanbul, Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which is left-wing, secular and often critical of the government, and senior editor Erdem Gül, said in a letter to EU leaders that they hope Sunday’s meeting results in a lasting solution, adding:
“We would also like to hope that your desire to end the crisis will not stand in the way of your sensitivity towards human rights, freedom of press and expression as fundamental values of the Western world.”
The two also wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a spokesman for the German government confirmed.
A court on Thursday (26 November) ordered the arrest of the two journalists over the publication of footage purporting to show the MIT, Turkey’s state intelligence agency, helping send weapons to radical Muslim groups in Syria.
The US embassy criticized the arrests, and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, described them as “another blow to media freedom in Turkey”.