As the United States and the EU continue to struggle with the migrant crisis affecting Europe along with the increasing threats from China in the South China Sea, a new issue has arisen in the last year with it possibly culminating on March 7th, 2016. That new crisis is the ever increasing crackdown on freedom of the press in the strategically important country of Turkey that could have devastating results for the democratic world.
“The seizure of the news agency following that of Zaman is another nail in the coffin of journalism in Turkey” Yavuz Baydar, who is one of the founding members of the platform for Independent Journalism, said regarding the takeover.
The struggle between the freedom of the press and the current President Erdogan could be a sign of a larger crisis in Turkey as the newspaper, Cihan, which is the second newspaper to be shut down by the government, is seen as an opposition outlet supported by the PKK and the Kurdish population in Turkey. Both of these Kurdish organizations are seen as “terror groups” in Turkey as the Kurdish population, mainly in the southeast, are accused of seeking an independent state. The rise of the PKK began in 1974 as a revolutionary movement determined to get the people of Turkey who are of Kurdish decedent their own territory.
Highlighting this struggle between the two groups, was a car bomb that exploded yesterday in the capital city of Ankara, which killed 32 people and injured more than 100, although no group has claimed responsibility. It is widely believed in Turkish government that the PKK is behind the attack.
“Turkey must respect the highest standards when it comes to democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedoms, starting with the freedom of expression” Federica Mogherini, who is the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy representative, said at the Turkey- EU summit on Monday March 7th.
Turkey is an important country involving many of the current issues that have been affecting the EU, primarily, the migrant crisis stemming from the Syrian Civil War, where the migrants have been using Turkey as an entrance point into Europe and making their way into the more migrant friendly countries of Northern Europe and Germany. Many of whom are struggling greatly to deal with the large number of migrants.
“Zaman Media Group being silenced in Turkey, crackdown on press freedom continues sadly” Kati Piri, who the European parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey said in a tweet.
The EU is being accused of not taking as hard of a stance against restrictions and crackdowns in Turkey because of the important role that the country has with its strategic location between the EU and Syria. The EU is also contributing to the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and parts of Syria, but also against Kurdish fighters in Iraq who have been fighting IS.
“By lashing out and seeking to rein in critical voices, President Erdogan’s government is steamrolling over human rights” Andrew Gardner who works for Amnesty International’s Turkey research division said. “A free and independent media, together with the rule of law and independent judiciary, are the cornerstone of internationally guaranteed freedoms which are the rights of everyone in Turkey” Mr. Gardner continued in his statement.
In the end, it is important that if the EU wants to regard itself as an institution that upholds the rights for individuals to express themselves, which includes opposition press, then it must use that philosophy for all the countries that the organization involves itself with, not just opponents but also allies as well.
Links to sources:
- The Guardian Link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/08/seizure-of-news-agency-is-nail-in-coffin-of-journalism-in-turkey
- Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-politics-gulen-idUSKCN0W60FB