03/06/2014 - 23:00
CPJ concerned about latest remarks by Erdogan

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a statement today saying it is alarmed by reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called CNN journalist Ivan Watson a "flunky" and said the foreign press was "literally executing their duties as agents" in connection with the coverage of protests in Istanbul.

These words follow the brief detention and manhandling of Watson and several other Turkish journalists by the police that were reporting on the anniversary of the Gezi protests on Saturday. 

Erdogan said Watson was "caught red-handed" and that "these people have nothing to do with a free and impartial press".

The Coordinator of the CPJ's Europe and Central Asia Program Nina Ognianova said: "Erdogan's comments would be funny for the paranoia they betray, if not for the fact that they put journalists at very real risk."

Ognianova added: "We urge the prime minister and all Turkish authorities to refrain from making such irresponsible statements, which embolden adversaries of the media and have a chilling effect on the press."

According to reports, Turkish police scuffled with several journalists covering the anniversary of the anti-government Gezi Park protests in Taksim Square on Saturday. CNN journalist, Ivan Watson, was kicked and he and his crew detained while broadcasting live from the scene.

Watson was not the only journalist to be harassed that day. Turkish journalist Erdal Imrek, editor for the Daily Evrensel, was beaten by police dressed in plain clothes and briefly detained. Imrek was released after witnesses protested at him being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

Ahmet Sik, a prominent Turkish investigative journalist and book author, was also beaten by the police, the journalist told CPJ. Several other journalists took to Twitter to report being harassed by the police while covering the events.

"We call on Turkish law enforcement to stop using violence against journalists covering public protests and allow them to cover protests without obstruction or harassment," CPJ's Ognianova said.

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