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EU attacks Turkey for curbs on press 11 octobre 2012

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Financial Times (UK) Thursday, October 11, 2012, p. 2

By Daniel Dombey in Istanbul and James Fontanella-Khan in Brussels

Report highlights jailing of journalists. Turkey is restricting freedom of the press by imprisoning journalists and banning websites and has failed to resolve concerns about the rule of law, the EU said yesterday in its hardesthitting report on the aspirant member state.

Although membership negotiations are stalled by ambivalence in both Ankara and the EU itself, the European Commission’s annual report on the country broke new ground in the severity of its criticism.

Among its complaints, it describes an « increasing tendency to imprison journalists, media workers and distributors », adding that « freedom of the media continued to be further restricted in practice ».

It cites concerns about the legitimacy of highprofile court cases and adds that the frequent use of arrest, failure to give reasons for detentions and limited access to court files « highlight the need to bring the Turkish criminal justice system into line with international standards ».

Henri Barkey, an expert at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, said: « The Turkish justice system is to justice what military music is to music: there is a semblance of laws, and rules, and a system, but it is not a real rule of law. »

The report is published at a time of concern among some Turkish activists and analysts about a perceived rise in authoritarianism and a debate on whether Ankara has in effect given up on its decades-long effort to move closer to Europe.

Some Turkish government officials argue the west no longer alone sets the standards for democracy and human rights as its political and military pre-eminence declines.

In a two-and-a-half-hour speech at a showpiece party congress 10 days ago, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, did not once mention Turkey’s EU membership aspirations. In an apparent disregard for western reaction, he invited Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas, to the event.

Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s Europe minister, accused the commission of showing a lack of objectivity in its report and said that Turkey could write its own evaluations of EU member states.

Adding that the report showed Turkey making progress in 32 of 33 areas under discussion, he attributed the problems of Ankara’s membership bid to prejudice and Europe’s own woes.

« This is totally about the current political and economic scenario in Europe, » he said. « We will be more than happy to be a guideline for EU member states. »

The commission report highlights attacks on the press repeatedly made by senior government officials and the military, noting that several journalists had been fired after writing articles critical of the government, as well as a rise in self-censorship.

« Website bans of disproportionate scope and duration continued, » it adds, noting that no statistics had been published on banned sites since May 2009.

Hakan Altinay, chairman of the Open Society Foundation-Turkey, said: « We can still say Turkey is freer, fairer, more democratic, more prosperous than 10 years ago, but if you move the baseline to five years ago, Turkish media [were] more free then. »

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