RSF urges British PM May to raise press freedom issues in Turkey, US

British Prime Minister Therasa May

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has urged British Prime Minister Therasa May to use her meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump to address the press freedom situations in Turkey and the US in a letter on Thursday.

Emphasizing on the dire situation in the US and Turkey in terms of violations of media freedom, Deloire, on behalf of RSF, has stated that “In different ways, the vocal attacks of the President of the United States against journalists, and the extensive media crackdown being overseen by the President of Turkey, are clear violations of press freedom – one of the most important values in the UK.”

After touching Trump’s extensive maltreatment of media Deloire wrote in his letter that “Following the Trump administration’s first White House press conference, Turkish President Erdoğan praised Trump for putting a CNN reporter ‘in his place’. This reaction was hardly surprising given Erdoğan’s presence in RSF’s list of ‘press freedom predators’, and the unprecedented crackdown he is overseeing on the ground in Turkey, which is currently ranked 151 out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.”

The related part of Deloire’s letter to Prime Minister May as follows: “In Turkey, the press freedom situation has deteriorated sharply under the state of emergency proclaimed just over six months ago. Since July 2016, Turkish authorities have jailed around 100 journalists without trial, closed 149 media outlets, rescinded 775 press cards, withdrawn journalists’ passports, and seized their assets without justification.

RSF representative Erol Önderoglu is among the dozens of journalists facing serious jail time in connection with their work in Turkey. Önderoglu, who is standing trial as part of a group of three journalists and human rights defenders, has been charged with ‘terrorist propaganda’ in connection with a campaign of solidarity with Özgür Gündem, a Kurdish daily newspaper that has since been closed by the authorities. The next hearing in their case has been set for 21 March.

Another prominent journalist, former Cumhuriyet newspaper editor Can Dündar, remains at serious risk despite the fact that he now lives in exile abroad, having been forced to flee Turkey for safety after he was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison on trumped-up charges of divulging state secrets. His wife, Dilek Dündar, is stuck in Turkey, following the cancellation of her passport without explanation last August, as she was about to leave. Journalists like Dündar who have fled the country now face the additional threat of being stripped of their Turkish nationality, under Decree-Law No. 680, which took effect on 7 January.”

At the end of the letter, Deloire urged May once more to raise the issue of press freedom as a matter of urgent priority in her meetings at the highest level in the United States and Turkey. He also demanded that the United Kingdom must make it clear that press freedom matters in its bilateral relations, and that it will hold its partners accountable for upholding their own laws and their international obligations.


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