U.S. State Department Comments on Turkey’s Declining Press Freedom, Elections

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By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

The United
States Department of State Office of Press Relations Director Elizabeth Trudeau
commented on Turkey’s most recent Early Parliamentary Elections during the
Daily Press Briefing on November 2.

Trudeau
congratulated the people of Turkey on their participation in the elections, but
expressed concern over restrictions on media freedom. “The media outlets and
individual journalists critical of the government were subject to pressure and
intimidation during the campaign, seemingly in a manner calculated to weaken
political opposition. We urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions
uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in Turkey’s constitution,” she
said.

The very
next day, a question about Turkey’s deteriorating press freedom was again
raised. She did not directly respond to questions regarding the arrest of
dozens of people in Turkey on November 2nd, including senior police
officers and bureaucrats, on suspicion of having links to Islamic cleric Fethullah
Gulen, who President Erdogan accuses of trying to run a “parallel state” in
Turkey. “We urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold
universal democratic values including due process, freedom of expression and
assembly, access to media and information,” she reiterated. This message was
conveyed both publicly and privately to the Turkish authorities, she said.

Below is a
transcript of the State Department Daily Press Briefings from November 2nd
and 3rd.

Department of State

Daily Press Briefing on Turkey by Elizabeth
Trudeau, Director

Office of Press Relations

November 2, 2015


MS TRUDEAU: “We congratulate the people of
Turkey on their participation in yesterday’s parliamentary elections. The
United States looks forward to working with the newly-elected parliament and
with the future government. As a friend and NATO ally, we are committed to
continuing our close cooperation with Turkey to advance our shared political,
security, and prosperity agendas.

We
understand the OSCE will issue a comprehensive final report on the election in
coming weeks. We note the OSCE released a statement of preliminary findings
today highlighting that the elections offered voters a variety of choices but
that restrictions on media freedom remain a serious concern. We reiterate our
own concerns. The media outlets and individual journalists critical of the
government were subject to pressure and intimidation during the campaign,
seemingly in a manner calculated to weaken political opposition. We urge
Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic
values enshrined in Turkey’s constitution.”

QUESTION: So
I note that you noted your own concerns about the pressure and intimidation on
journalists in Turkey ahead of the election. Do you concur with the OSCE
preliminary view that the conduct of the campaign was unfair because of the
media and media access issues?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, as I said in my
opening statement, they’ve released a statement of preliminary finding –
findings that noted that the election had – voters had choices but restrictions
remained a concern. We understand that a full report from the OSCE will come
out later, so we’ll wait on that, but we’ve spoken very forcefully from this
podium on our concerns on media freedom in Turkey.

QUESTION: And do you think that the
return to single-party rule in Turkey is (a) a good thing, and (b) will it have
any effect – positive, negative, neutral – on U.S.-Turkish cooperation against
the Islamic State in Syria?

MS TRUDEAU: Well, we look forward to
working with whatever new government. We understand the official election
results will be released in coming days. We’re not going to speculate on the
final result.”

QUESTION: So
the leader of the pro-Kurdish party, HDP, said – accused the ruling party of
restricting them from campaigning during the election, and he said we cannot
say the election was completely free and fair. Can you – what do you – what’s
your – I know you responded to the OSCE report, but –

MS TRUDEAU: I’m going to stay there. At
this stage we haven’t seen the final report of the monitors on the ground.
We’re going to wait for that. In terms of parsing the words of individual
parties on the ground, that’s a Turkish matter. I’m not going to do that.

QUESTION: Thank you.”

Department of State

Daily Press Briefing on Turkey by Elizabeth
Trudeau, Director

Office of Press Relations

November 3, 2015

 

“QUESTION: There are reports of an
additional crackdown on journalists and on civil society in Turkey since the
elections. We are reporting that the authorities have detained dozens of people,
including senior police officers and bureaucrats on Tuesday on suspicion of
their having links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom the
Erdogan government has had trouble with. And a left-leaning news magazine was
raided over a cover story suggesting that the election result could trigger
conflict.

Do you have
any response to what is the latest in a long series of steps that are widely
seen abroad as an effort to crack down on freedom of the press and on civil
society in Turkey?

MS TRUDEAU: So we spoke about this a
little yesterday, and I’d say the United States is Turkey’s friend. We are a
NATO ally. We urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold
universal democratic values including due process, freedom of expression and
assembly, access to media and information. We look for governments to ensure
that all law enforcement activities follow those.

QUESTION: Have you – I mean, you’ve
said things like this repeatedly over the last several months, I think – longer
than that, actually.

MS TRUDEAU: We have.

QUESTION: Have you reached – and I
know that the new government is still being formed, but have you reached out to
the Turkish authorities or to the interim government to convey this message?

MS TRUDEAU: So we have said this
publicly and we’ve said this privately.

QUESTION: Including in the last day?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to the
conversations we’ve had in the last day, but I would say I spoke to this
yesterday from this podium. We – as you’ve noted, we’ve spoken to this
repeatedly. Thanks.”

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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