"I am not at war with the press" - Erdogan on limits to free speech

As a court in Istanbul closed its doors to the media for a controversial trial involving two journalists, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in the United States talking to media about his views on press freedom.

"We should not confuse criticism with insult and defamation ... I am an open leader," Erdogan told CNN in an interview. The Turkish president is one of many world leaders attending a nuclear summit in Washington.

"As long as you love the people sincerely and deeply, the people will love you," he added.

His comments followed tense scenes on the premises of a US think tank Thursday, where Erdogan's security scuffled with protesters and journalists, prompting condemnation from the White House and press groups.

This added to the pressure building on Erdogan to ease the crackdown waged by him against critical domestic media outlets.

But Erdogan defended Ankara's stance in the interview late Thursday: "Everything has to have boundaries."

"We have laws in place and laws allow you to have freedom to the extent defined by law," he said.

"I am not at war with the press," he urged.

Nonetheless, recent measures taken by the Turkish government have drawn criticism internationally.

Earlier this week, a song poking fun at Erdogan on a satirical news programme in Germany sparked outrage in Ankara, which summoned its German envoy and asked for the clip to be removed from public view - a request ignored by Germany.

Earlier this month, Zaman newspaper, a mass-circulation opposition media outlet, was taken over by the Turkish government and later relaunched as a pro-government publication.

Academics have also been arrested after signing a peace petition. They are accused of spreading terrorist propoganda.

Turkey is currently investigating 1,845 cases against people for insulting the president, and press advocacy groups say there are 13 journalists in jail in the country.

Last update: Fri, 01/04/2016 - 11:16
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