The controversial agreement brokered between the European Commission and Turkey allows for the return from Greece of "irregular migrants" to Turkey in exchange — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated across the EU member states.
However, as part of the deal — which will allow for visa-free access to the Schengen zone for Turkish citizens — Turkey has to fulfil a number of important legal commitments — not least on human rights and press freedom issues. The EU is also demanding the loosening of anti-terror laws than have been used to detain journalists.
Helga Stevens, a lawmaker in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said that conditions for Turkey should be especially stringent, it being a candidate member state, without any double standards. She felt "ashamed of the irresponsible behavior of the Commission towards a dictator".
Despite evidence to the contrary, in its latest assessment of Turkey's fitness, the European Commission says that Turkey has "fulfilled" a commitment to "ensure that freedom of movement of citizens of Turkey is not subject to unjustified restrictions, including measures of a discriminatory nature, based on any ground such as sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion".
Attacks on Journalism
Erdogan has called for the prosecution in Germany of satirist Jan Bohmermann, who broadcast a poem on ZDF television sitting in front of a portrait of the Turkish president, reading out a poem that accused him of "repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians while watching child porn," among other things.
Erdogan has demanded that Bohmermann be prosecuted, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed.
A Turkish court's sentenced Can Dundar, the editor of opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, to seven years, reduced to five years and 10 months, on charges of revealing state secrets that could harm the security of the state or its domestic or foreign interests. The court sentenced Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül to six years in prison, reduced to five years, on the same charge.
In early May, Ebru Umar, a Dutch journalist of Turkish origin, was arrested while on holiday in Turkey on Saturday (April 23) after writing in her column that Erdogan's attacks on free speech was equivalent to Dutch World War 2 Nazi Party "NSB practices," calling Erdogan a "megalomaniac dictator".
Riot police stormed the Istanbul offices of Turkey's largest newspaper, the daily Zaman, on March 4 following a court-ordered takeover. The new trustee administration has since fired editors and Zaman, once critical of authorities, has become a pro-establishment mouthpiece. The digital archives of Zaman and its sister-publication, the English-language daily Today's Zaman, were destroyed, according to journalists at the newspaper.
Reporters Without Borders rank Turkey at the 149th place out of over 180 countries, between Mexico and DR Congo, with a score of 44.16. In the third quarter of 2015 alone, news agency Bianet recorded attacks against 21 journalists, three media organs, and one printing house and the six-fold increase of arrests of media representatives, with 24 journalists and 9 distributors imprisoned.