Erdogan rejects Obama's criticism of press freedom in Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejects US President Barack Obama’s allegations against government practices relating to freedom of press and democracy in Turkey

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the opening ceremony of the Turkish-American Culture and Civilization Center in Maryland, USA. April 2, 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has flatly rejected US President Barack Obama’s allegations concerning the Turkish government’s practices concerning freedom of press and democracy.

The Turkish president was in the US for a five-day visit this week in order to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit, and held several meetings with top leaders from the business world.

He met with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday and President Barack Obama on Thursday.

"I was saddened when I heard that there was such a statement [by Obama] in my absence. During my meeting with Obama, such issues were not raised [by Obama]. I was not told about the issues raised," Erdogan said on Saturday, speaking to the reporters on the last day of his US visit.

"We agreed with each other during our previous phone conversations that it would be more beneficial to talk face-to-face than through the press [concerning these issues]," Erdogan pointed out.

"I think the approach that they've been taking towards the press is one that could lead Turkey down a path that would be very troubling," Obama said on Friday during a press conference at the conclusion of the nuclear security summit in Washington DC.

While in the US Erdogan repeated the stance of the government that no journalist is in prison or under prosecution because of their work in journalism. He also said he welcomed all manner of criticism, but could not tolerate insults.

"When it comes to insult and defamation, of course I have problems," he asserted, during a speech at the prestigious US think tank the Brookings Institution, on Thursday in Washington DC.

"We have never done anything to stop freedom of expression or freedom of the press," Erdogan said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

"On the contrary, the press in Turkey has been very critical of me and my government, attacking me very seriously. And regardless of those attacks, we have been very patient in the way we have responded to those attacks," he said in the interview which was broadcasted on Thursday.

He also reminded his US counterpart that a US citizen from Wisconsin was recently arrested on the grounds that he had threatened to kill Obama on his Facebook page.

A US district judge in Madison sentenced Brian Dutcher to three years in federal prison, charging him of two counts of threatening to kill the president on March 25.

Erdogan additionally invoked other examples of people being punished for insulting and threatening presidents or prime ministers in European countries, including in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

"If Obama brought out this issue during our meeting, I would have given him all of these examples," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president has also drew attention to the rise of Islamophobia in the United States and US presidential candidates have repeatedly targeted Muslims during the election campaign, speaking at the opening of a Turkish-sponsored mosque and religious complex outside Washington.

TRTWorld and agencies