Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rebuffed recent statements by renowned US author Paul Auster, who said he refuses to travel to Turkey due to the high number of journalists jailed in the country.
“American writer Paul Auster recently gave an interview to a Turkish daily. He said he refuses to travel to Turkey since he finds Turkey anti-democratic. He said he would not travel to Turkey because of jailed journalists. He said he also refuses to go to China. As if we need you! What difference would it make if you came or not? Would Turkey lose prestige?” Erdoğan said on Wednesday during a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) addressing Auster.
He was referring to a recent interview Auster gave to the Hürriyet daily. “I refuse to come to Turkey because of imprisoned journalists and writers. How many are jailed now? Over 100?”Auster said during the interview.
“This writer paid his most recent visit to Israel in 2010, as if Israel is a democratic, secular country where human rights are limitless. What an ignorant man you are. Israel is a religious state. Isn’t Israel shelling Gaza?” Erdoğan added.
He also criticized Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for backing Auster. “Birds of a feather flock together,” he commented. At Wednesday’s meeting, Erdoğan also directed accusations at the CHP for limiting freedom of the press in the past.
Citing examples of the CHP violating freedom of the press through various past bans, Erdoğan said that the CHP should be the last to complain about limited freedom of the press in Turkey. The prime minister offered up 16 documents from the 1940s that demonstrated censorship imposed on various famous writers and publications throughout the country by the CHP government.
“There are actually hundreds of such documents [that prove the CHP’s pro-censorship stance]. All bear the signature of İsmet İnönü [a former CHP leader] as president. All 16 of these documents bear the signatures of CHP officials. They banned the Elifba [Arabic alphabet] book. This is the CHP mentality. … They banned all signs in Arabic. They closed down many newspapers, namely the Cumhuriyet daily, and stopped their publications. They banned the books of [authors] Aziz Nesin, Rifat Ilgaz and Sabahattin Ali with whom they [the CHP] shared the same views,” said Erdoğan.
Erdoğan said his government has become a target of unfair criticism because a number of journalists have been jailed in connection with ongoing investigations in Turkey. He said these individuals, who happen to be journalists, have not jailed due to journalistic activities but rather due to charges that include participation in a terrorist activities, killing policemen and the illegal possession of firearms.