Turkey's press freedom must be on Obama-Erdoğan agenda

By Nina Ognianova/CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator on May 16, 2013 2:24 PM ET

When President Obama meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdoğan today, he needs to deliver the message that Turkey's failure to improve its record on press freedom is eroding the country's strategic relationship with the United States and sabotaging its regional leadership ambitions, CPJ's executive director, Joel Simon, and Reporters Without Borders' director general, Christophe Deloire, write in an opinion piece in Foreign Policy.

Forty-seven journalists continue to languish in Turkey's prisons--most of them not yet even tried. Thousands of other journalists in Turkey have been subjected to crippling punitive lawsuits, while Erdoğan continues to chastise media outlets and individual journalists who challenge his policies. Many reporters and columnists have been forced from their jobs as a result, Simon and Deloire write. In response to criticisms of his government's treatment of journalists, Erdoğan has been defiant and defensive.

"Obama is right to recognize the strategic importance of Turkey's relationship with the United States. Turkey is a NATO member and an economic engine for the Middle East," Simon and Deloire write. "But Turkey's strategic value also depends on its appeal as a model--a moderate Muslim democracy that has managed to cultivate deep trade ties with Europe--for the newly democratizing states of the Middle East. Turkey's poor record on press freedom undermines its credibility as a model and blunts its soft power."

To read the entire op-ed, click here.


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