Despite the CHP's accusations, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), Hélène Flautre, called Today's Zaman “one of the stars of Turkish press.” Speaking to Today's Zaman, Onur Öymen, the CHP's deputy chairman, said he did not name any specific publications, complaining that the European Parliament was only getting its information from certain sources.
At the 63rd meeting of the JPC held in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, several CHP deputies attacked the Today's Zaman and Zaman dailies. Accusing the European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, of only reading certain newspapers, Öymen called on European deputies “to learn about the tendency and orientation of such media.”
Another CHP deputy, Osman Coşkunoğlu, claimed the sales figures of Zaman were very low but its circulation was high as it was handed out for free. Coşkunoğlu made this remark while referring to Zaman’s Monday headline in which Dutch Christian Democrat Ruijten called for an overhaul of the judiciary. Coşkunoğlu also told Today’s Zaman that he did not explicitly name any newspaper.
The claims came amid discussions in the European Parliament about freedom of the press in Turkey. Addressing the JPC meeting, Öymen said: “Do not limit yourself to the information of some media. You read some English daily newspapers, but please try to learn about the tendency and orientation of such media.”
Öymen insisted that he did not name any specific media outlet, but when asked, everybody in the room understood that he was referring to Today’s Zaman. He said he could not prevent people from having certain opinions.
Öymen was apparently not happy about the inclusion of a Today’s Zaman article in a JPC file. The article was presented to members of Parliament and Turkish deputies together with 17 documents before the meeting. The article, titled “Turkey wants full visa immunity from EU, not ease in requirements” and published in the Feb. 4 edition of Today’s Zaman, called for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens between Turkey and Europe.
Asked about CHP deputies’ remarks on Today’s Zaman, Flautre said Today’s Zaman was one of the stars of the Turkish media. Stressing that there is a great variety of opinions in the Turkish press, Flautre said they expect to hear all the differing views from all segments of Turkish society. Referring to the Doğan Group tax issue as well, Flautre, a member of the European Parliament from the French Green Party, said the majority of the European Parliament thought the tax fine was political rather than fiscal.
Meanwhile, speaking at the meeting on Monday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said an independent and impartial judiciary was the pledge of the government to the public and that they will keep this promise. Ergin delivered a speech at the meeting on Monday, stressing the government’s efforts to improve the country’s judicial standards. “In addition to our government’s efforts at democratization, a judicial system that operates in an independent and impartial way is our pledge to our citizens,” Ergin said, stating that they have taken the initiative to keep this promise with a judicial reform strategy draft, prepared by the Justice Ministry last year.
The draft calls for the implementation in 2010 of many long-overdue laws that are essential to Turkey’s European Union accession process.