Turkish foreign minister accuses West of hiring journalists as spies

Erdogan and CavusogluIn a further sign of worsening relations between Turkey and the West, Turkey’s foreign minister has accused Western countries of secretly employing journalists to spread “terrorist” propaganda against his country. His claims come just days after European leaders strongly criticized Ankara for imprisoning foreign journalists without trial. During a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders in Brussels last week, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel protested the arrest of Deniz Yücel, a reporter for German newspaper Die Welt, who was arrested in Turkey in February. Yücel, who is a German citizen, has remained imprisoned without trial for more than three months. Germany’s protests were echoed by France at the NATO conference. The newly elected French President, Emmanuel Macron, criticized the arrest by Turkish authorities of National Geographic photojournalist Mathias Depardon. Depardon, a French citizen, was arrested earlier this month and is currently on hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention.

But in an interview with BuzzFeed, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dismissed these complaints as part of a conspiracy against Ankara. Speaking last weekend from the Slovakian capital Bratislava, Çavuşoğlu accused “the secret services of these countries” of “using journalists and also bloggers in Turkey”. He said that this was “the new trend in Europe”, namely for spy services of Western countries to hire journalists as spies. In a tone that the BuzzFeed reporter described as “conspiratorial”, Çavuşoğlu said that when journalists working as spies are arrested by Turkish police, European governments “make a lot of noise [and] it becomes a big issue”. Çavuşoğlu also claimed that he directly contacted German authorities to claim that Yücel , the Die Welt reporter, “was working for the secret service of Germany”.

Çavuşoğlu’s claims epitomize the worsening relations between Ankara and Western countries, which have followed a rapidly downward spiral since the July 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey. The coup attempt included an armed attack on the country’s parliament and the murder of over 200 people across Turkey. Ankara claims that the coup was sponsored by supporters of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who runs a global network of schools, charities and businesses from his home in the United States. The government of Turkey has designated Gülen’s group a terrorist organization and claims that its members have stealthily infiltrated state institutions since the 1980s.

Earlier this month, Turkey’s relations with the United States were tested after members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal detail engaged in violent clashes with protesters in Washington, during an official visit of the Turkish leader. A subsequent report in The New York Times blamed Mr. Erdoğan’s security guards for the mayhem. But Çavuşoğlu dismissed the report as the work of pro-Gülen centers. “They have been attacking Turkey and Erdoğan for two years and we know who is behind this”, said the Turkish foreign minister, adding that “this kind of anti-Turkey and anti- Erdoğan coverage” is sponsored by “terrorist acolytes”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 May 2017 | Permalink

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