By Aishwarya Rai, International News Writer
On November 1, Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildrim, expressed his lack of concern for the European Union’s criticism on media freedoms, after at least 13 senior staff members of an opposition newspaper were incarcerated, according to the Washington Post.
European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, took to Twitter and called the detentions, “yet another red line crossed against freedom of expression in Turkey.”
Prime Minister Yildrim stated in a televised speech to his party’s legislators that the government will “protect press freedom until the end,” and that “media freedoms (are) being used by the EU to try to limit Turkey’s steps in combating terror.”
The detentions of the chief editor, columnists, and a cartoonist at Cumhuriyet, one of the nation’s oldest newspaper, garnered attention and criticism from the US too, according to the Washington Post.
The reason for the detentions is that the newspaper allegedly had given support to the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a U.S. based Muslim cleric who was accused by the government of leading the July 15 coup attempt, according the Istanbul prosecutor’s office.
Yildrim has said the investigation that led to this conclusion apparently had two parts, one regarding a procedural complaint filed at the newspaper’s corporate body and the other a prosecution based on “supporting terror without being a member of terrorist organizations.” Authorities have arrested around 37,000 people since the coup attempt, and at least 170 media outlets have been shut down, along with 105 journalists arrested. Following the investigations, the government has placed trustees to companies that may have connections to Gulen, which Ayse Yildrim says is a sign that, “they are trying to lay the groundwork to appoint a trustee” at Cumhuriyet.
The paper has rejected such allegations, as seen in Tuesday’s edition with the headline “We will not surrender,” and the columns of two of its detained writers left blank. A columnist at the paper, Ayse Yildrim, has stated to the Associated Press that Cumhuriyet will continue to publish blank columns until the managers and writers are released. He mentioned that the detentions “may be an issue of democracy for Turkey but we are facing an issue that concerns the whole world.”
Support from hundreds of demonstrators including opposition parties was shown outside the newspaper’s Istanbul headquarters on Monday.
Those in attendance stated that the vigils will also continue until the members of the newspaper that have been detained are released.
In response to Schulz’ earlier comments, Yildrim stated, “Brother, we won’t take notice of your line. The nation draws the red line for us. What importance does your line have?”
Yildrim did mentioned that the government could consider ratifying the bill of the death penalty, however, he mentioned that it wouldn’t be “retroactive” possibly because this could put an end to Turkey’s efforts to join the EU, according to The Huffington Post.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.
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