Turkey must give press freedom: Says Jagland

The Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, has said that Turkey must work to improve its stance on press freedom.

Speaking at a conference on ‘Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom’ in Ankara on Tuesday, he said that the number of court cases waiting to be heard against Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights stood at 450.

“This is simply too much” said Jagland.

Although he acknowledged that Turkey had made steps to improve its record on human rights, he said that more needed to be done and there also needed to be a change in mind set on this issue.

He added that two thirds of cases found against Turkey at the ECHR were about freedom of expression. From Jagland’s point of view, freedom of expression is equivalent to the protection of democracy. He made particular reference to Prime Minister Erdogan’s targeting of some media outlets. He suggested that politicians should think carefully before suing the media for defamation because of the “chilling” effect it could have on freedom of expression in the media.

Turkey and the Council of Europe held a conference 14 months ago and since that time have worked together to answer major legislative issues and practice regarding freedom of speech as had been found by the court in its studies of Turkey’s legislature and implementation.

He praised Turkey’s efforts to align its legislature with EU standards and in reference to a fourth package of reform, hoped that appropriate amendments would be made.

He concluded by saying that: “. “What is needed is a complete overhaul of the Counterterrorism Law [TMK], as well as amendments to the Turkish Penal Code [TCK].”

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