President Erdogan claims press in Turkey is freer than anywhere else in the world

The leader made the startling claim in a televised speech hitting back at critics

Ben Tufft
Monday 29 December 2014 17:37

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the autocratic Turkish president, has provoked criticism by claiming that “nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey”.

On Friday, Mr Erdogan defended his regime's record on press freedom in a televised address in Ankara claiming that "the press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries", according to the AFP news agency.

However, Johann Bihr, a spokesman from Reporters Without Borders, told The Independent: "Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in our 2014 Press Freedom Index. Its once vibrant and diverse media environment is narrowing by the day.

"Dozens of journalists that were jailed for years have been granted conditional release in 2014, but they are still facing jail terms if they are declared guilty, and more media workers are prosecuted in politically motivated trials.

"President Erdoğan's inflammatory speech and intolerance to dissent are encouraging police abuses and the persecution of media through courts," he added.

The leader’s speech comes shortly after police raided media linked with Mr Erdoğan’s nemesis Fethullah Gülen and arrested the editor of an opposition newspaper.

Members of the judiciary, police and press were targeted across the country as part of a power-struggle between Mr Erdoğan and Mr Gülen.

At the time the Human Rights Watch groups said the detentions appear to be an “attempt to crack down on critical media”. The EU also protested at the move.

Mr Gülen is currently in self-imposed exile in the US but remains a powerful force in Turkish politics and has claimed that democratic process is being “reversed” in the country.

Just days ago a 16-year-old boy was arrested when he read a statement critical of the ruling AK party and the president, implicating him in corruption. It was claimed the teenager had "insulted" the president.

The boy was released on Friday, pending a trial, but could face up to four years in jail if convicted.

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