No State that jails journalists can join the European Union!
by Pier Luigi Parcu
Director Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF)
19 December 2014
Media are the main instrument through which citizens are informed, elaborate their opinion and get the elements to decide who they wish to vote. Media are essential to the democratic process. The recent arrests in Turkey of a number of journalists who used to work for media outlets often critical of the government is indeed a strong threat to the opposition and to those who do not agree with the politics of the government, but first and foremost to democracy.
According to President Erdoğan, those media representatives were part of a movement that aimed at creating a “parallel structure” against the government. The act remains unacceptable as the arrests go against any principle of democracy and respect of fundamental rights, violating habeas corpus, freedom of expression, presumption of innocence, right to access the content of the investigation files, etc.. In a word they are a severe vulnus to democracy.
The European Union, in particular with the reactive statements of the High-Representative Mogherini and of Commissioner Hahn, the international organisations worldwide and the entire public opinion are shocked by what has happened in Turkey and have deeply and strongly condemned these arrests. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media have been violated, and this is aggravated by the fact that the reason behind these arrests remains obscure, not based on evidence and likely related to direct political motivations of President Erdoğan.
The Turkish President cannot claim that freedom of expression in Turkey is not an EU business. According to the conditions for joining the EU, any candidate country shall guarantee, among others, freedom of expression as a fundamental right. The 2014 Turkey Progress Report released by the European Commission in October, stressed the fact that Turkey could accelerate the pace of accession negotiations, started in 2005, by advancing in the fulfilment of requirements set especially in the chapters related to Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and Justice, Freedom and Security (23-24). Moreover, the same report expresses concern with regard to the violation of freedom of expression and of the media, to the situation of journalists and the intimidation they receive, and to the issue of self-censorship. These new arrests of journalists might and should constitute a severe halt in the negotiations process and is definitely in sharp contrast with the democratic soul of the EU.
The Turkish government should remember that no State that jails journalists can join the European Union!