Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior statesman, has told the US Senate that he wants to draw attention to the lack of freedom of speech in Turkey.
He said that free speech was “under threat” by the government which “seeks to silence its critics.”
Press freedom, he said was“a fundamental cornerstone of a democratic society.” Leahy pointed out that Turkish police had arrested and detained nearly two dozen members of the news media, including Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, in the latest assault on the press. The senator described Karaca and Dumanlı as “two prominent journalists.”
“The sweeping charges levied against them were not only intended to stop their criticism, but to intimidate anyone who is critical of the Turkish government,” the senator said.
On 14th December, 2014, Turkish police raided the offices of the Zaman daily, detaining its Editor-in-Chief Dumanlı. Dumanlı remained in custody for a week, but he was later released following international pressure. The court, however, kept Karaca behind bars fearing that he may escape. Karaca had surrendered himself.
Samanyolu Media Group Chairman Karaca is yet to be indicted and no trial date has been set. Lengthy trials have become another way to punish those with trumped-up charges in Turkey.
Karaca’s arrest invited international condemnation. Last month, 90 members of the US Congress wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to express concerns over press freedom woes in Turkey and called on the secretary to speak up to defend Turkey’s press freedom. The letter also mentioned Karaca as a journalist who was arrested for critical journalism.
Leahy said the arrest of Karaca and Dumanlı reflects “a broader pattern of repression” in Turkey, where targeted reprisals against outspoken critics have become common practice for that government.
The senator referred to Turkey’s poor press freedom record and claimed that Turkey has consistently been among the top jailers of journalists, along with China and Iran. “This latest censorship continues the abuse of the Turkish penal code and further erodes what remains of press freedom in Turkey,” Leahy added.