WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an interview with Breitbart News, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denied that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had shut down any media outlets in the country, claiming the widespread police raids against media outlets were the product of judiciary orders.
Çavuşoğlu sat down with Breitbart News for an exclusive interview at D.C.’s National Press Club last week.
“Free press is definitely necessary for democracies and democratic societies,” Çavuşoğlu said, noting that the media must be held accountable for their reporting. “Press should be also, at the same time, much more responsible and they should tell the truth,” he said.
Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have pushed back against the media’s allegedly biased coverage of events in their nations. Earlier this year, Erdoğan praised Trump for putting CNN reporter Jim Acosta “in his place” during a news conference. Trump told Acosta, “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news” in response to an article CNN had published alleging Russia had tried to compromise him.
Unlike Trump and his supporters, however, Erdoğan fans have taken to violently attacking media outlets – the headquarters of the newspaper Hurriyet were attacked twice by mobs chanting “allahu akbar” – and Erdoğan’s police forces have stormed and shut down broadcasters for alleged ties to terrorism.
Al-Monitor previously reported that the Cumhuriyet Daily’s editor-in-chief “Can Dundar and Ankara representative Erdem Gul landed behind bars Nov. 27 for reporting that Turkish intelligence shipped weapons to radical Islamists in Syria. Though they were released three months later, they eventually received jail terms for revealing state secrets.” The piece titled “How Erdogan Became Turkey’s Biggest Media Boss” also reports that 85 percent of Turkey’s remaining news channels are state-owned.
“Unfortunately, the press is taking sides, and the role that press is playing in Western countries is not very constructive,” Çavuşoğlu told Breitbart News. He added his belief that the leftist media, especially in Europe, was responsible for “a very dangerous trend” which has taken the continent “back to [the] pre-World War II era.”
Çavuşoğlu also blamed the media for fueling hateful sentiment towards migrants, refugees, Muslims, and Jews among other groups. “Media should tell the truth. This is the main problem, unfortunately; both in your country and also in our region. Nevertheless, free media is essential for democracies.”
Following the failed military coup against Erdoğan’s government last July, Erdoğan’s government shut down over 130 media outlets, arresting many of their highest-ranking journalists. However, on Tuesday, Çavuşoğlu said, “In Turkey, no media outlet or press has been shut down or closed by President Erdoğan. And President Erdogan has no power” to shut media down. Instead, Çavuşoğlu suggested these actions were carried out by independent judiciaries in the country.
Nevertheless, there were some media outlets belonging to Fethullah [Gulen] terrorist organization, and they were involved in the failed coup in Turkey. And they were also involved in many illegal activities including fabricating false evidences against third persons. So those are the media outlets closed by the independent judiciaries in Turkey, not by President. The president has no authority to do so in Turkey.
However, the upcoming referendum vote, taking place on April 16, will likely change that. At one point during the interview, the foreign minister said that Erdoğan has “a lot of power now, no responsibility” but noted that if the referendum vote passes, “the president will be [held] accountable” and that he will be vested with a great deal of responsibility. Çavuşoğlu explained that currently, Turkey does not have a separation of power but between the government and the parliament, but that with the new system, “there will be a clear separation of power.”
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