Media freedom not limitless: PM Erdoğan

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 6.3.2013 – The principle of freedom of the press does not give media the right to “act against the national interest of a country,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, while also asserting that the “the last word” on the ongoing resolution process belongs to the government. He said that the government would in the end spell out that word on behalf of the nation.

Over the last three decades, neither the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) nor the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), nor the media, has displayed a “national stance” on the issue of terrorism, Erdoğan said on March 5, addressing his party’s parliamentary group. “Nobody is criticizing this publication, but it is not national and it is dealing in sabotage,” Erdoğan said, referring to the publication of an alleged transcript of a meeting between the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and deputies of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which took place on Feb. 23.

Erdoğan accused some parts of the media of providing “oxygen” to the terrorist organization, while also reiterating that the CHP and the MHP were destructive to the process. “All kinds of documents, gossip, and rumors are nothing beyond a pipe dream until we say the last word and put the last full stop. In a short time, we will announce who leaked the documents and how they did it,” he said.

The transcript was published by daily Milliyet on Feb. 28, prompting Erdoğan to deliver a heated speech on March 2 in which he said: “If this is the way you conduct your journalism, damn your journalism.”

Referring to criticism of his expressions, Erdoğan said columnists could not lecture him on the freedom of press.

‘We are as free as media’

“There cannot be limitless freedom,” he said. “If the media is arbitrarily declaring an area of freedom, and if it is so free that it can report by violating national interests and exploiting freedom, then as a prime minister, ministers and lawmakers – as people who assume responsibility – we are as free as them to voice our feelings,” Erdoğan said. He also added, however, that his government was against “censorship.”

The prime minister suggested that in the past the media was not able to report what it was reporting today, while also vehemently defending his right to sue journalists for “insulting” reports.

While his harsh remarks over the reporting by Milliyet on March 2 was his first comment on the issue, the March 5 address was the first parliamentary address by Erdoğan following the same reporting.    

CHP calls on scribes to resist pressure

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 6.3.2013 – Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on journalists to be courageous and resist pressures imposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“The ruling party mentions press freedom on one hand, but [then] pressures newspapers on their coverage of certain stories. The government asks a newspaper to fire two journalists. I’m appealing to all journalists; be courageous and brave. Don’t bow down to the AKP. You resisted all coups such as the March 12, 1971 coup and the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. You should resist the AKP coup as well,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in his address to his party’s parliamentary group March 5.

In mentioning “two journalists” Kılıçdaroğlu was referring to rumors that appeared on Internet media websites March 5 claiming Milliyet, a leading Turkish newspaper that came under fire from the government for publishing the minutes of a second parliamentarian visit to the jailed leader of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, was allegedly asked by the government to fire two columnists Hasan Cemal and Can Dündar. The rumors had not yet been confirmed when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print.  Reiterating his call to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to comment on the content of the leaked records of the parliamentarians’ visit to Öcalan, Kılıçdaroğlu said they do not trust Erdoğan regarding talks with Öcalan.

“The nation has been humiliated in having been informed about bargains regarding its destiny through the leader of a terrorist organization. The only thing the prime minister says is ‘Trust me.’ This is the most disproportionate demand from the nation. Erdoğan lied to this nation about talks with Öcalan and he asks us to trust him. Erdoğan, we don’t trust you, because we don’t trust liars,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.