Press freedom undermined by European hypocrisy

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published

We would like to have believed that the forced deportation of Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, along with the police violence against Turkish citizens and journalists on the night of March 11 in Rotterdam was a fluke; a regretful mistake, caused by the incompetence of local authorities and brutal police officers, that will never ever happen again. Many who followed the incident from Turkey could not believe what they were seeing, expecting senior European officials to issue statements condemning what had happened or at least explain how such a thing could happen in the center of Europe. Those who tried their best to put a positive spin on the violence wondered if the entire episode was due to the election fever running wild on the eve of the national polls in the Netherlands.

However, the following days and weeks showed that this was no coincidence. The warnings of the dangers of racism, xenophobia and fascism had come too late. They have already seeped deep into the political consciousness of European politics and became the new normal. Freedom of speech and free press are nothing but ploys to attack those deemed to be foes. Hiding behind the cloak of democracy, European politicians are racing with each other to capitalize on every extremist sentiment so that they can gain an extra vote. No wonder Turkey has become the favorite scapegoat of so many politicians, from the far right to the extreme left.

Those who believed the violence on March 11 was an aberration that would never be repeated should think again. Only a week later, the Netherlands' MEP Jeroen Lenaers took the baton and with daily De Telegraaf started a campaign to ban this newspaper from the European Parliament.

Lenaers, from the Christian Democratic Appeal, wrote a letter to the president of the European Parliament, asking him to prevent Daily Sabah from entering the parliament building.

In 2015, it was the same MEP who wrote a letter to daily Zaman, the media organ of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) that was shut down after last year's deadly coup attempt. His letter was in response to the arrest of Mehmet Baransu, one of FETÖ's most senior operatives. Many in Turkey are now wondering what is the connection between the two; one a Dutch MEP and the other a journalist who abandoned his career to serve a terrorist group.

FETÖ is known for providing financial incentives and classified Turkish information to senior politicians across the world to get what they want. Is Leaners's belligerent attitude toward Turkey just due to his fascist tendencies fed by the escalating extremism back in his native land, or does he have links to FETÖ, which is known to have carried out worldwide smear campaigns against Turkey.

What we have here is a politician, who obviously has some connections to a criminal group that tried to topple the democratically-elected government of Turkey, writes a letter to protect a FETÖ member under the guise of defending the freedom of press, and then goes on to write another letter calling for the banning of Daily Sabah, which is the most credible, dynamic and youngest media organ in Turkey.

Targeting Daily Sabah, one of the hundreds of news publications distributed in the European Parliament, demonstrates how intolerant European politicians can be. Rather than presenting counterarguments, or trying to establish a line of dialogue, Europeans take a shortcut through violent attacks, bans and forced extraditions. Those who turn their gaze toward Europe to witness civilization in action these days now see something akin to a second-rate zombie show. Shame on you! We never thought you would stoop so low!

Daily Sabah will take up the mantle of freedom of press and speech, not only to defend itself against unjustified attacks, but also to stand up for universal values that are gradually being eroded by bigoted, narrow-minded individuals who seem to form the majority of European politicians that are destroying the principles all self-respecting people hold dear.

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