The European Union has reacted adversely to the seizure of journalists’ assets by the Turkish government on charges of “aiding terrorism.”
Of the 54 journalists whose assets have been seized, the majority had worked for the Zaman daily. Zaman, Turkey’s highest circulating newspaper, was violently seized by the Turkish government on March 4, 2016 and was closed down after a failed coup on July 15. The assets of Zaman’s owners have also been confiscated.
Answering questions on the asset seizure, an EU official told Turkish Minute that Brussels was seriously concerned about the Turkish government’s actions targeting journalists. “It is important that Turkish authorities respect the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in all circumstances. Any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process or a fair trial, and the right of every individual to such a fair trial or due process needs to be respected,” said the EU official.
Bringing to mind the very critical progress report of 2016, the EU official said the selective and arbitrary application of the law, especially of the provisions on national security and the fight against terrorism, was having a negative impact on freedom of expression.
Despite the grave human rights violations, the EU pays utmost attention to keeping the level of criticism vis-à-vis Turkey at a certain level, avoiding using the “c” word — condemnation. The European Parliament voted on Nov. 24 to suspend the accession talks as Turkey has clearly fallen behind in meeting the Copenhagen criteria, essential conditions that all candidate countries must satisfy to become an EU member state. In the wake of the EP’s decision, member states have vowed to continue talks. Member countries have come under heavy criticism for putting their interests before principles when it comes to Turkey.
“Ongoing and new criminal cases against journalists, writers and social media users, the withdrawal of accreditation and high numbers of arrests of journalists as well as the closure of numerous media outlets in the aftermath of the July attempted coup are of serious concern. Freedom of assembly continues to be overly restricted, in law and in practice,” said the official.