ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday dismissed a “red line” warning on press freedom by the European Parliament’s president following the detention of several journalists from the opposition daily Cumhuriyet.
At least 12 journalists and executives from the secular leftwing newspaper were taken into custody Monday, some of whom were detained in early morning raids on their homes.
Reacting to the detentions, President Martin Schulz said on Twitter: “The detention of Murat Sabuncu and other Cumhuriyet journalists is yet another red-line crossed against freedom of expression in Turkey.”
Schulz said the “ongoing massive purge” seemed to be “motivated by political considerations, rather than legal and security rationale”.
Yildirim struck a defiant note saying: “Someone from the European Parliament said: ‘Regarding this newspaper’s detentions, this is our red line’. Brother, forget your line, schmine, we have no regard for your red line. The people will choose the red line, the people!
“Upon your line, we will draw a line ourselves. Leave this alone!” Yildirim said.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and columnist Kadri Gursel were among those detained.
An Istanbul prosecutor said that Cumhuriyet and its owner the Cumhuriyet Foundation were being investigated over whether they committed crimes on behalf of a group accused of launching the July 15 failed coup or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Yildirim told the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in Ankara that the investigation by the Istanbul prosecutor was a legal process.
He said Turkey had no problems with press freedom and would protect it “until the end” and indirectly accused Europe of not showing enough solidarity in Turkey’s fight against terror.
“This is what we cannot agree on with our European friends. When we take steps in our fight against terror, they immediately put in front of us the issue of press freedom.”
Since a rogue military faction tried to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power, more than 100 journalists have been arrested while 170 media organs including newspapers and broadcasters have been closed down, the Turkey Journalists’ Association said on its website.