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Erdogan's talk of human rights a mockery as 66 journalists face trial in just one day

TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent pronouncements on human rights and freedom of expression were exposed as a mockery today after 66 journalists went on trial in just one day.

They faced a range of charges including spreading terrorist propaganda just days after the authoritarian ruler proclaimed that “nobody can be robbed of their freedoms because of a criticism or opinion,” as he laid out a new human rights action plan.

Some 46 journalists working in pro-Kurdish media including the now-closed Ozgur Gundem newspaper Dicle Haber Ajansi, Azadiya Welat, Demokratik Modernitecand Firat Dagitim were hauled before court for the twentieth time. 

“The fact that there are so many hearings scheduled on the same day shows exactly where we are with freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DiSK) chairman Faruk Eren said.

Pressure on opposition journalists shows no sign of abating with the Dicle Firat Journalists Association (DFG) reporting today that six journalists were jailed for 26 years last month, with 72 standing trial in 36 cases.

“For every news report or photograph that disturbs the government, investigations are launched against journalist,” the union said in a statement.

DFG spokeswoman Dicle Muftuoglu told the Morning Star that if Mr Erdogan was sincere in his commitment to human rights he could start by releasing jailed journalists.

“It is almost like his statement had not been made,” she said: “If there is talk of a reform and freedom of the press, journalists must be released and the case files must be closed. We will continue to fight for it.”

Mr Erdogan’s announcement on Monday has been seen as a sop to the EU as he seeks to mend the neoliberal bloc’s sometimes rocky relationship with Turkey.

It comes ahead of a meeting of the Council of Europe (CoE) meeting later this month which will discuss Turkey’s failure to adhere to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights ordering the release of jailed former Peoples’ Democratic Party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas.

Hopes of firm action have been dimmed by the fact that the CoE is currently chaired by German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass. 

Despite public spats between the two nations he has been joined by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell for talks with representatives from the Turkish government, while trade has continued to flow to Ankara.

Mr Mass recently intervened to block a motion calling for an arms embargo in Turkey, insisting that it would not be strategically correct to do so at this time.


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