WASHINGTON—US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denounced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attacks against Western media outlets, but brushed aside criticism that Turkey was an unreliable ally despite the growing rift between the two countries.
Asked about President Erdogan’s accusing the New York Times, CNN and BBC of trying to weaken and divide Turkey, and later expanding on it with a claim that journalists, Armenians and homosexuals were “allies in sedition,” Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications at the US State Department Marie Harf told a daily briefing that the US supports freedom of expression, and remains concerned about government interference in freedom of expression in Turkey, “We’ve said that for a long time and we remain concerned.”
“An independent and unfettered media is an essential element of any democratic and open society,” said Harf. “As Turkey’s friend and as their NATO ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold democratic values, including due process, judicial independence, and freedom of expression, including access to media and information.”
When asked if she would “denounce or decry or criticize” Erdogan for his criticism of homosexuals, Armenians and journalists, she responded “Absolutely.”
Turkey’s President Erdogan continued his salvoes against a number of minorities ahead of the June 7 general elections, when he accused Armenians, journalists, and homosexuals on Wednesday of supporting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
“Their biggest ally is Dogan Media. The Armenian lobby, homosexuals and those who believe in ‘Alevism without Ali’ – all these representatives of sedition are [the HDP’s] benefactors,” Erdogan said during an address to citizens in the eastern province of Bingöl on June 3.
On June 3, the Turkish president also repeated his ever-toughening rhetoric against international media. “They also received the support of some foreign media outlets, which see Turkey as their colony,” he said.
In recent days for different reasons, Erdogan has slammed several media institutions including the daily Hurriyet, which is owned by the Dogan Media Group, daily Cumhuriyet, the New York Times, CNN International and the BBC.
Erdogan has made slights against Armenians on several occasions in the past, including last year, when he raged against opposition politicians for calling him an Armenian. “They called me a Georgian. Pardon me for saying this, but they said even uglier things: They called me an Armenian!” Erdogan said in an interview on national TV in August 2014.