By Michael Hornsby, Berlin
The European Parliament has denied media reports that the parliament’s president banned the distribution of English-language Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah inside the parliament. Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency reported Thursday that a ban was implemented following a request from Jeroen Lenaers, a MEP for the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal party in the Netherlands.
On Friday, however, Marjory Van Den Broeke, a spokesperson for the European Parliament, denied that there was any such ban, writing by email to WHatti:
“There was and is no ban on any paper in the European Parliament. The Daily Sabah can be obtained at the distribution office by anyone wishing to do so. The same goes for other papers which send copies to Parliament.”
Asked to clarify reports in Hurriyet Daily News in which she was named as confirming the ban, Van Den Broeke explained:
“The Daily Sabah can still send paper copies of its publication to the Parliament’s mail room, and these will then be brought to the distribution office – as is the case with other newspapers – where they can be obtained by people wishing to have them. These publications will not be carried out further to yet other locations within the Parliament. I certainly did not confirm a ban.”
Washington Hatti understands that some newspapers, including Daily Sabah, which are delivered to the EU Parliament in Brussels but are not often collected for reading were previously being placed around the building as general reading material. MEP Lenaers is believed to have taken issue with this perceived promotion of Daily Sabah, which is widely considered to be a propaganda outlet for the AKP. While there has been no ban of the reading or distribution of Daily Sabah at the parliament, it and other papers will no longer be placed around the parliament building as general reading material.
Nonetheless, Several Turkish government ministers reacted with outrage to the supposed ban. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ called the supposed ban a “massacre of freedom of press and expression, and the destruction of EU values” while Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik tweeted: “@Europarl_EN [The European Parliament] & other EU institutions should stop preaching Turkey & immediately look at the mirror to see where the EU is heading towards.”
Meanwhile, Daily Sabah editor-in-chief Serdar Karagöz claimed in an interview with Anatolia News Agency on Friday that the supposed ban was the work of FETO, the movement headed by exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, and implied that Lenaers was representing FETO’s interests.
“The FETO lobby was behind the decision to ban the Daily Sabah newspaper in the European Parliament. We see the influence of some politicians that FETO has influenced and bought in some way,” said Karagoz.
Karagoz also claimed that the ban, which is denied by the European parliament, undermined Europeans’ criticism of Turkey’s widespread crackdown on journalists and media organisations. “We have seen in a very clear way in the past month that there has been no sincerity, truth behind criticisms or freedom of the press and democracy…They [Europeans] use them as a tool to oppress Turkey,” Karagoz said.