Tur­key me­dia crack­down highly alarm­ing: Merkel

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL - BERLIN:

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel yes­ter­day 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 the Cumhuriyet daily.

The ar­rests were “the lat­est ex­am­ple of this al­ready very sad trend,” 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.” Adding that the Ger­man am­bas­sador had vis­ited the Cumhuriyet news­room Tues­day, Merkel said: “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.”

She said the is­sue would “ob­vi­ously play a cen­tral role” in talks on Ankara’s long-stand­ing but cur­rently stalled bid to join the Euro­pean Union. The Cumhuriyet ar­rests came after Turkish au­thor­i­ties fired more than 10,000 civil ser­vants at the week­end and closed 15 pro-Kur­dish and other me­dia out­lets, the lat­est purge since July’s failed mil­i­tary coup aimed at oust­ing Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

Merkel’s strong com­ments fol­low a series of rows this year be­tween Berlin and Ankara on civil rights and sen­si­tive his­tor­i­cal ques­tions. Re­la­tions took a dive after the Ger­man par­lia­ment in a June res­o­lu­tion de­clared the Ot­tomans’ World War I-era mas­sacre of Ar­me­ni­ans a geno­cide. The vote in­fu­ri­ated Er­do­gan and for months Ankara blocked Ger­man par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from vis­it­ing Ger­man troops at a NATO base in south­ern Tur­key, un­til Merkel’s gov­ern­ment pub­licly clar­i­fied that the vote was non-bind­ing. An­other ma­jor dis­pute was sparked by Ger­man TV comic Jan Boehmer­mann who in a so-called “Defam­a­tory Poem” satir­i­cally ac­cused the Turkish pres­i­dent of bes­tial­ity and pe­dophilia, spark­ing a crim­i­nal com­plaint by Er­do­gan and an on­go­ing civil case. Ger­many is home to a three-mil­lion-strong eth­nic Turkish pop­u­la­tion, the legacy of a mas­sive “guest worker” pro­gram in the 1960s and 1970s. As Europe’s top des­ti­na­tion for refugees last year, Ger­many has re­lied on an EU-Tur­key agree­ment de­signed to stop the mas­sive in­flux of peo­ple flee­ing war and poverty.

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