Less than two weeks after police raided opposition media linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s arch-nemesis Fethullah Gulen (who is currently in a self-imposed exile in the United States), Erdogan said Turkey has the freest press in the world.
“Nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey. I’m very sure of myself when I say this. The press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries,” Erdogan said in a televised speech from Turkey’s capital city Ankara on Friday. “I’ve personally experienced this, so has my family,” he said according to the Times of India.
Erdogan also took the opportunity to lash back at the European Union for their criticism of his raids on Gulen’s opposition media source. The EU recently said Erdogan’s move ran counter to European values; Turkey has been trying to join the EU for quite some time. Erdogan reportedly said “Europeans accuse us as if such things never happen in their countries. No one raises their voice when journalists are detained in Europe.”
Turkey was the top jailer of journalists for two years consecutively (2012 and 2013), leaving the country ahead of China and Iran according to an annual report from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Turkey dropped into 10th place this year.
Adding insult to injury, Erdogan’s speech coincided with the release of a 16-year-old boy who was arrested at his high school last Wednesday and released on Friday for calling Erdogan the “chief of corruption.” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had reportedly supported the court’s original decision to arrest the boy, saying “Everyone must respect the office of president whoever he is,” the Telegraph notes. The teen is awaiting trial and if convicted could face up to four years in prison.
Adelle Nazarian is on Twitter @AdelleNaz