Turkey-US Friendship Group to send Kerry letter on media freedom
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the Turkey-US Interparliamentary Friendship Group will send a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry in response to another letter sent by members of the US Congress to Kerry concerning the arrests of Turkish journalists and the status of media freedom in Turkey.
Erdoğan's remarks came after 88 members of Congress sent Kerry a letter on Feb. 2 urging him to support media freedom in Turkey.
Turkish police raided a number of venues on Dec. 14 last year and detained 31 suspects, including a number of journalists. The editor-in-chief of Turkey's bestselling newspaper Zaman, Ekrem Dumanlı, and STV network Chief Executive Hidayet Karaca were also among the detained journalists. Dumanlı was later released pending trial while Karaca remains behind bars.
Mentioning Karaca and Dumanlı in their letter, the members of Congress stated that they are “deeply concerned” by the recent arrest of journalists, underlining that the Turkish government's steps to “intimidate, arrest, and smother” critical voices are a threat to the very democratic principles that Turkey claims to respect.
The congressional members also mentioned the Dec. 14 operation, saying the charges faced by Dumanlı and Karaca are “questionable.”
The US politicians also listed their concerns over the blocking of scores of tweets from Turkish journalists and media outlets after a complaint was filed by a judge over a news story shared through the social media platform. It said some 400 people were monitored on Twitter and "ultimately Turkish access to the social media [site] was blocked.”
Underlining the Turkish government's earlier attempts to silence opposition voices, the members of Congress said that “recent arrests have had a chilling effect on freedom, democracy and economic prosperity for all of Turkey.”
“…we strongly urge you to reach out to President Erdogan and his administration to encourage a peaceful and appropriate resolution to these cases. A free media must be supported and protected to foster an environment open to constructive political discussion and to ensure freedom of expression for all the Turkish people,” the Congress members said in the letter to Kerry.
Stressing that Turkey is a strategic ally to the US in the Middle East and a key member of NATO, the politicians expressed hope that the Turkish government would “abandon this course of intimidation and embrace a free press and tolerance of dissenting voices.”
“It is our priority to encourage the Turkish government to fulfill the responsibilities and obligations to their own people,” they said.
Republican Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida are among the many signatories of the letter.