WASHINGTON — US Senator Charles E. Schumer, along with 73 other United States Senators, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry this week to urge the State Department to immediately address issues stemming from of the intimidation of journalists and censorship of the media by President Tayyip Erdogan’s Administration in Turkey. According to Turkish and American news reports, the Erdogan Administration has intimidated and harassed members of the Turkish media who are vocally opposed to the current Administration. On December 14th, the editor in chief of Zaman, a highly circulated daily newspaper in Turkey, was arrested and the CEO of Samanyolu Media Group was arrested; both individuals lead major news organizations known to be critical of the Erdogan Administration. In the letter to Secretary Kerry, Schumer and his colleagues wrote, “we strongly urge you to address this issue with President Erdogan and his administration in a way that encourages peaceful and appropriate resolution to these cases.” Schumer noted that this is a departure from Turkey’s long tradition of democracy and tolerance of civic dissent, and urged that these treaty partners address this issue.
“As a democracy with a long tradition of tolerance of a civic discourse and as a valued American partner in many endeavors, the current Turkish government under President Erdogan needs to stop suppressing the free press and put an end to gross intimidation efforts among members of the media who express opinions or report events in a way that the regime feels is opposed to their interests. Secretary of State Kerry should address the worrisome trend towards undemocratic behavior in President Erdogan’s Administration and urge the government to adhere to the basic principles of democracy, including freedom of the press – something that has long been a value in Turkey,” said Schumer.
“The Erdogan Administration should be held accountable for these egregious abuses of free speech,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the co-author of the letter. “Arresting journalists and censoring the media are the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime, not a democracy. I hope Secretary Kerry will work to resolve these troubling developments without delay.”
A copy of the Senators’ letter is below:
Dear Secretary Kerry,
We write to express our deep concern about the persistence of human rights violations in Turkey. We are particularly concerned by the recent arrest and detainment of members of the Turkish media and the broad effort by the Erdogan Administration to censor the freedom of press. A strong democracy requires that all members of the society respect the freedom of expression, even when voices opposed to the government are vocal. We hope that you will address this issue as you engage with the Turkish government.