Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Qs & As on Turkey Internet & Judicial Bill, Iran-Syria

Via-Phone Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
1:11 p.m. EST
Briefer: Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson

MS. HARF:  Yeah.  Looks like the next question is from Ilhan Tanir, if you could open his line, please.

QUESTION:  Hi Marie, do you hear me?

MS. HARF:  I can hear you, Ilhan, yes.

QUESTION:  Thank you for taking the call.  A quick two questions on Turkey and one question on Syria-Iran.  Question on Turkey:  There are two bills just passed at the parliament and the first one is internet bill.

MS. HARF:  Uh-huh.

QUESTION:  It just actually approved by the President Gul yesterday, and it’s criticized by outside and inside, by many corners.  What’s your reaction to this bill?

MS. HARF:  Yep.  So this is – what we said when the legislation was first approved by the parliament, we share the serious concerns raised by the OSCE and others that the law has the potential to severely restrict free expression, freedom of the press, and access to information over the internet.  We also believe that the law could negatively impact Turkey’s business and investment climate.

We understand that the legislation improved by – approved, excuse me, by President Gul will be subject to further modification by parliament.  During this process, as well as the implementation of any final legislation, I’d say we’re looking to Turkey to uphold – again, I’ve talked about it a few times today – but fundamental freedoms of expression and a free and independent media.

QUESTION:  So as you mentioned, there are two modifications by President Gul.  Will be okay if those two modifications are amended or done at the parliament?

MS. HARF:  I wasn’t saying that.  Obviously, we are looking to Turkey during this process to uphold the fundamental freedoms that really underscore why we’re concerned about this legislation.  I’m not going to get into more detailed analysis about the law or possible modifications.  We’ll take a look at what happens when it happens and make assessments at that time.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  And the second bill, this one passed at the parliament – I asked this question about three weeks ago – and it is awaiting President Gul’s signature again.  It is the bill on the judicial council that will hand control of the judiciary to the executive branch, being again criticized by the EU many, many times, and also there is a big reaction within Turkey.  Do you have any reaction to this one?

MS. HARF:  I haven’t seen the specifics on that one, Ilhan.  I know you’ve asked about this a few times, so let me check with our folks and see if we have more of a response.  I know we don’t always comment on sort of internal Turkish matters, but let me check and see what I can do.

QUESTION:  Actually, that’s exactly what I am asking for, because if you are taking this bill as an internal matter, that means that you’re not taking it as the universal value of democracy as judicial control that will have control to the entire judiciary to the executive branch.  So even if you can get back to me on this, whether you’re taking this as internal matter or as something that will deal blow to the separation of powers would be immensely helpful for the writing record in history.

MS. HARF:  Yep.  Let me see what I can do for you, Ilhan. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  And my final question is – this question was asked again several times in the past.  This is about the U.S. Treasury’s statement issued on February 7th or 6th about operatives in Iran that is – they have been helping.  According to Treasury statement, they’ve been helping to transfer funds and fighters to Syria for the al-Qaida elements.  Do you have anything on this this time?

MS. HARF:  I really just don’t have more on this than I think we’ve talked about.  I’d refer you to the Treasury Department and my colleagues there to speak to this.

QUESTION:  Actually, I talked to them.  They referred me to you to comment on this.

MS. HARF:  I love when that happens.  So I’ll refer you back, and I will talk with them and see if we can get you anything.  Again, it’s a Treasury designation --


MS. HARF:  -- so I think they’re probably most appropriate to speak to that issue.

QUESTION:  This is about how Iranian operatives are in Iran helping al-Qaida elements in Syria.  This kind of analysis or your take on this is the question to you.

MS. HARF:  Well, look, broadly speaking, we’ve made our concerns clear about some of Iran’s activities in Syria.  But beyond that, let me talk to my Treasury colleagues, but I’d recommend you give them another call and they can speak to their designation a little bit more.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MS. HARF:  Thank you, Ilhan. 

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