Friday, September 18, 2015

US Calls Out Turkish Judiciary for curbing free speech

DPB #159
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson

My Qs and As w State Dept Spox on Turkey
QUESTION:  Mark, since last time I asked this question about eight or nine days ago, the Turkish press, press freedom in Turkey, we have seen some further crackdowns on Turkey.  There’s a journalist yesterday sentenced to six-year jail time for insulting president.  The biggest newspaper of Turkey or most influential newspaper of Turkey now under investigation for terror propaganda.  There are – every day there are new journalist, without exaggeration, being investigated and sued.  My questions is to you that – do you think the Turkish press is going too far criticizing the Turkish Government and this may be – what’s your sense, assessment?  Is this the Turkish press should be careful about their editorial?
MR TONER:  Look, you’re never going to hear from this government or this podium any attempt to stifle or to suggest censorship on the part of any media anywhere.  Obviously, we promote a free and independent media, as you can see from all the many people and different voices and perspectives in this room right now.  That’s what we espouse as a pillar of any good, functioning, vibrant democracy.  And so we are concerned by the increasing number of investigations into media outlets regarding – or for criticism of the government and for accusations of disseminating terrorist propaganda.  And frankly, we’re also concerned about, I would say, the aggressive use of judiciary inquiries to curb free speech in Turkey. 
I would note that our ambassador there, John Bass, was actually – recently visited Hurriyet, the offices, and made some of these very same points about the need for a free and vibrant media and to protect that media.  As you’ve heard before from myself and from others, the quality of Turkey’s democracy matters to us, and we expect the Turkish authorities to uphold Turkey’s core values, democratic foundations, and universally recognized fundamental freedoms.
QUESTION:  Final one.  When you talk to Turkish Government on these issues, which is increasing every single day, what kind of – can you tell us what the --
MR TONER:  What kind of response?
MR TONER:  I just can’t give that.  I mean, we convey our concerns, but it’s – we often – or not often.  We rarely every characterize what we hear back in response.  That’s not our place to do so.

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