The United States on Monday expressed disappointment over the arrest of TV journalist Sedef Kabaş in Turkey over the weekend on charges of insulting the president and stressed the importance of freedom of expression for a democracy, Turkish Minute reported.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was asked during a press briefing in Washington on Monday about the arrest of Kabaş as well as threats made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeting Turkish pop music diva Sezen Aksu, who is accused of blasphemy in one of her songs.
“Well, this applies in Turkey but it is universal in its application as well, and that is the fact that we believe freedom of expression strengthens democracy and it needs to be protected even when it involves speech some may find controversial or some may find uncomfortable,” said Price.
“We’re aware of and we’re disappointed by the attention and arrest of Sedef Kabaş, one of the cases you referenced, and those principles apply equally to Turkey as they do to any other country.”
An investigation was launched into Kabaş on allegations of insulting the president on Friday after she quoted a Circassian proverb during a recent program on TELE1 station whike commenting on Erdoğan’s years-long performance as a president.
“When an [ox] enters a palace, it doesn’t become a king. [However], that palace becomes a barn,” said the journalist.
Police raided her house in the Sarıyer district of İstanbul in the early hours of Saturday and detained her. She was arrested after appearing in court the same day.
The crime of insulting the president carries a prison sentence of one to four years in Turkey.
Aksu became the center of controversy, criticism, attacks and threats from conservative and religious circles when she posted her song, which she first released in 2017, on her YouTube channel two weeks ago with a note to celebrate 2022. “Pleasure and pain, plans and games, standing tall or hitting the bottom, it is wonderful to be alive,” go the lyrics. “Here we are, on a rollercoaster, heading straight to disaster, say hi to that ignorant Adam and Eve.”
President Erdoğan on Friday jumped on the bandwagon of people criticizing and threatening Aksu, telling a group who had gathered for Friday prayers at a mosque in İstanbul that “nobody can insult Hz. Adam and Hz. Eve,” using the honorific religious titles, and that if they attempt to do so, it is their duty to rip out their tongues.
Erdoğan received widespread criticism for his threats against Aksu, with many raising their voices in support of the singer.