MEPs: We must defend all those standing on the front-line for free speech in Turkey

Marietje
Press Freedom in Turkey will be debated this afternoon in a joint conference by the ALDE Group and the Green Group in the European Parliament, focusing on the main issues journalists are facing in this country. Guy Verhofstadt, President of the ALDE Group, says it was about time to have an open debate in this House on what is a very serious and worrying topic: "Mr Erdogan and his AK Party have not lived up to the initial promise of delivering a modern, democratic and tolerant Turkish society, based on the rule of law. The initial gains in ending the political influence of the Turkish military and state administration have been replaced by authoritarian tendencies and security laws, by intolerance towards criticisms and lack of self-reflection. We need to increase EU' support, in very practical terms, to the media and journalists, both in the candidate countries and in the neighbouring ones. The EU should set up an ambitious exchange programme for journalists - to secure higher standards but also to support their self-confidence to stand up against undue pressure and to remain strong on the front-line for free speech." ALDE MEP, Marietje Schaake (D66, The Netherlands), added: "Press freedom has been restricted by the Turkish government in a systematic manner. Imprisoning journalists, censorship of social media, reporting bans, tax fines on media companies and personal attacks by politicians against editors and columnists have a severely chilling effect on free speech and media freedom." "Sadly, many journalists in Turkey have now become part of the polarized political debate, to the point of defending far-reaching political acts almost blindly. Media should not become tools of propaganda." "It is time for the EU to step up its efforts to train journalists, through exchanges in Europe. Critical thinking and the free word are often the first victims in countries where authoritarianism increases, such as in Turkey." Turkey has one of the highest number of jailed journalists in the world and according to the Press Freedom Index, set up and measured by the renowned organisation 'Reporters without Borders', the country ranks 149th out of 180 states compared. The conference "Press Freedom in Turkey" will be available in live streaming from 15.30 using the following link: http://go.alde.eu/livestream2 turkey-twitter-erdogan-social-media-ban-court