Discriminative ‘freedom’ of press

İBRAHIM ALTAY

İt is always sobering to see selective reasoning and pick-and-choose tactics being used when it comes to basic freedoms, especially by people and entities that always touted themselves as the champions of those values. Granted, it would be more sobering if it weren’t just the latest fallacy in the parade of Western values. What we are referring to is the ban on the distribution of Daily Sabah by the European Parliament (EP).

For those who missed the story, let us provide you with a brief recap of events. Last week, the EP banned Daily Sabah from being distributed to MEP offices, a distributor that our newspaper has worked with for the entire duration of its publication life.

This shocking ban has been instigated against other newspapers, as well. The ban comes after a campaign by Dutch Member of Parliament Jeroen Lenaers who sent a letter to EP President Antonio Tajani with the purpose of banning certain news outlets. Following receipt of the letter, the EP president approved the ban that led to Daily Sabah’s current predicament.

Amid current tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands, the stance taken by the EP will likely add fuel to the fire, but let us not delve into politics even though the decision is undoubtedly motivated by it. Let us even cast aside claims that FETÖ influenced the decision for a moment. Instead, let’s take a look at the core of the matter: Freedom of the press and Europe’s hypocrisy when it comes to it.

First of all, although the reasons for Lenaers’s launching such a smear campaign are apparent, let’s consider his statements to better understand his reasoning and the motivation behind his actions at face value. In his request for a ban, Lenaers pointed to an article titled, “Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) network in the Netherlands” as justification for this. Yet, the article in question wasn’t even published by Daily Sabah. Contrarily, it was written and published by the web team of our sister-newspaper, Sabah. For further developments and the political background of the decision, you might check out Mehmet Solmaz’s article, “European Parliament bans Daily Sabah but does not know exactly why,” published on March 24.

As the absurdity of the request comes to light, you might think that lifting the ban would be prudent. Well, apparently not. This time, Lenaers decided to point the finger at one of the columns in Daily Sabah as justification for the ban. The column in question was a critique of the Dutch prime minister following the recent diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands. So, the first argument was practically nonexistent and the second was about a column that expressed an opinion. It wasn’t even published in Daily Sabah, and the second was not an editorial representing Daily Sabah’s stance or even a news article.

What were we saying? Ah, yes hypocrisy. I suppose Daily Sabah should have censored its columnists from expressing their own take on the situation, lest they ruffle a few feathers. After all, apparently freedom of the press is merely a distant adjective in the minds of members of parliament who discriminate against freedom of the press.

What’s interesting is that there is nothing subtle about this stance, either. The head of the Press Unit of EP Marjory van den Broeke told Daily Sabah, “Some [members of parliament] were not happy with your paper,” when asked about the decision.

Considering how quick the EP was to ban the newspaper from distribution because “some members were not happy” with our paper, the constant accusations towards the state of freedom of the press in Turkey from various Western associations resonates with only word: Hypocrisy.

We hope that the EP will turn from trampling over the cause it supposedly champions and abandon the practice of choosing which newspaper enjoys freedom of the press and which ones don’t.

Media Association statement

As the Media Association, we condemn the ban on the distribution of Daily Sabah, Turkey’s best-selling English newspaper, at the MEPs offices at the European Parliament (EP). Daily Sabah has been distributed at the since its inception, just like many other publications. The EP’s stopping the distribution of Daily Sabah without providing any reason goes against the freedom of the press. Taking sides with the racist and fascistic rhetoric of the Netherlands against Turkey is an act unbecoming of the EP. We call on the EP to avoid being an instrument to this kind of politics and respect freedom of press at every level.