Saturday, November 07, 2015

US half a dozen times concerned about Turkey yesterday

DPB # 186
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs and As w John Kirby on Turkey, elections, crack downs on Press, Opposition

QUESTION:  Turkey? 
MR KIRBY:  Okay.  Turkey.  Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I thought somebody else was going.  It has been about one week since the Turkey election conducted.  Do you see after a week of reports and all that the elections were held fair, free, and transparent manner?
MR KIRBY:  Well, as I – we’ve already spoken about the results of the elections, and I believe there’s international monitoring organizations that are still looking into this.  We understand that OSCE is going to issue a comprehensive final report on the election in coming weeks, and I’ll note for you that OSCE released a statement of preliminary findings highlighting that the elections offered voters a variety of choices but that restrictions on media freedom remain a serious concern.  So I’m not in a position now, neither is the State Department, to further that until we get a look at what OSCE has to say in the coming weeks.  And when that happens, then we’ll have that discussion. 

QUESTION:  There are many respectable Turkey experts in this city and around the world think that the – since the elections crackdowns on the press, free press increasing, even some of the private businesses or groups, as of yet today and through the week have been raided.  Do you think these elections, as many fear, may be taken by the government today’s – Turkey’s government as green light to diverge from democratic life going forward?
MR KIRBY:  Let me make sure I understand your question.  That the results of the election somehow --

QUESTION:  Which is giving a majority to this government and can basically do pretty much anything, this would give permission to government to further crackdowns on the press freedom and the opposition.
MR KIRBY:  No, I would say we certainly hope not.  I mean, we’ve been very clear about what we look to other governments to do in terms of press freedom and judicial process.  And from this very podium I’ve spoken at length about what our expectations are for Turkish authorities with respect to that.  We continue to be concerned about what appears to be a troubling pattern of targeting media outlets and other organizations that are critical of the government.  That’s not in keeping with democratic principles, certainly not in keeping with Turkey’s own democratic principles.  So the short answer is absolutely not.  We wouldn’t expect that from any government, nor would we want to see that in this case.

QUESTION:  Another question on Turkey? 
MR KIRBY:  Sure.

QUESTION:  I got one more.  So you have been stating these concerns and statements for a long time, indeed you have been doing that.  At the same time, whatever the government, Turkish Government, has been doing so far, cracking down on the, again, free press, arresting and detaining journalists, even the wife’s journalist that you mentioned here a couple months ago is still in jail, in Turkish jails.  So the question many people are asking whether your concerns and statements mean anything, or do you take any kind of policy difference when you are conducting your relations with Turkey?
MR KIRBY:  Do we do what?  Differences?
QUESTION:  Do you make any kind of policy changes when it comes to relations with Turkey because of these human rights issues?
MR KIRBY:  When it comes to our strident support for human rights and freedom of the press and proper judicial processes, no.  And you’ve been in many of these briefings and you know very well that we speak to these things equally across the board.  In whatever country in the world I’m asked about when we’re talking about media freedoms, our policies have not and will not change with respect to basic human rights.  And we’re very candid and we’re very open about that right here from the podium in a very public setting as well as in private discussions that we have diplomatically around the world.  We always raise these concerns, and we always will raise these concerns.
Look, Turkey is an ally and a partner.  Turkey is contributing in this coalition against ISIL.  They’ve – they’re hosting a couple of million refugees from Syria inside their borders.  They’ve got a serious terrorist threat that they’re dealing with.  There’s a lot going on.  Turkey’s a – but as I said, Turkey’s an ally and a partner, and we want to see Turkey succeed.  It’s in our interest as well as in the interest of the Turkish people, and we want to see Turkey live up to its own democratic principles. 
And so does it trouble us when we see some of these reports?  Absolutely it does.  And do we express that privately and publicly?  Absolutely we do, and we will continue because we want to see Turkey succeed.  We want to see the Turkish people succeed and to – and for the whole country to be able to not just espouse, but to live up to these democratic values.

QUESTION:  Do you see any kind of sign that Turkey is going to or has changed any kind of its policies regarding its free press and its approach to the – approach to the opposition within Turkey after you have been expressing privately and publicly your concerns to them?
MR KIRBY:  Well, obviously we’re still seeing incidents that are of concern to us.  I would – you’d have to talk to Turkish authorities about what policies they’re espousing, continuing to espouse, or will espouse in the future.  That’s for them to talk to.  But as I’ve said here many, many times too, we don’t just judge another nation’s intent by their words but by their actions, and these recent actions certainly give us pause for concern – cause for concern.  And again, we’re going to continue to raise that.

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