WASHINGTON (Hurriyet Daily News)—The United States continues to have concerns over the right to free media and free speech in Turkey, State Department spokesperson John Kirby has said in his answer to a question on the seizure of Koza Ipek, a corporation with links to the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) ally-turned-enemy Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen.
“We continue to urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold universal democratic values, values that are enshrined in the Turkish government and constitution itself, including due process, freedom of expression and assembly, and of course access to media and information,” Kirby said.
“We continue to have the same concerns that we’ve had before in terms of the right to free media and free speech and assembly,” he added.
When asked to comment on the impact of the seizure, Kirby declined to “prognosticate.”
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, described the police raids against media outlets owned by the Koza Ipek Company as “a disturbing illustration of the dangerous path Turkey has undertaken.”
“The Turkish police’s violent raids against the media controlled by the Koza Ipek holding company, which was put under trusteeship yesterday, are a particularly disturbing illustration of the dangerous path Turkey has undertaken in recent months as regards its stance on media freedom. “
“Regardless of the reasons motivating the decision to put the parent conglomerate under trusteeship, media must enjoy special provisions concerning freedom of expression and editorial independence,” Muiznieks said in a statement on October 28.
“These measures must be stopped immediately, but they have already sent a very chilling message to the Turkish public and journalists less than a week before general elections, and thereby done great harm,” Muiznieks added.
“The police exist to protect democracy, not to crack down on one of its fundamental pillars. It must be the judiciary’s role to protect this pillar. I therefore reiterate my call on the Turkish authorities to shield the press from undue interference, ensure journalists’ safety and put an end to police violence,” Muiznieks added.
An Ankara court decided late on October 26 to appoint a trustee panel to Koza Ipek upon the request of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office.
The Ankara 5th Court of Peace justified the appointment arguing a trustee panel was “necessary to assign managers with full control to prevent crime and to protect evidence in a case in which reports have revealed that this company has helped and been involved in the activities of an organization titled FETO/PDY [an alleged terrorist group made up of Gulen sympathizers] which is said to have attempted to topple the government.”
On the morning of October 28, Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to forcefully enter the headquarters of Koza Ipek’s media group in Istanbul in order to seize control by implementing a court order.
Police and newly-appointed trustees later entered the main control room, causing disruption in the broadcast which briefly went off air.