ISTANBUL — The United States is concerned about media freedom and free speech in Turkey amid the arrest of dozens of journalists and Internet restrictions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday.
“If there is an area that I’m concerned about with recent actions in Turkey … it’s the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” Clinton, in Istanbul on a two-day visit, said on CNN Turk television.
“I do not think it’s necessary or in Turkey’s interest to be cracking down on journalists or bloggers and the Internet because Turkey is strong enough … with enough voices, and if there are differences of opinion, those will be drowned out by others who can debate it in the marketplace of ideas,” she said.
“It seems to me inconsistent with all other advances that Turkey has made,” she said, adding that, “If I were in the Turkish government I would be standing up for freedom of expression.”
Clinton was in Istanbul for a meeting of the Libya contact group on Friday and talks with Turkish leaders later Saturday.
About 60 journalists are in prison in Turkey, according to press groups.
They include prominent government critics charged as part of a long-running probe into alleged plots to discredit and oust the Islamist-rooted ruling party, which critics say, has degenerated into a campaign to silence the opposition.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has displayed a dwindling tolerance to criticism and routinely attacks the media.
Earlier this year, he defended the unprecedented banning of a yet-unpublished book, penned by one of the jailed journalists, saying: “some books are more destructive than bombs.”
Many journalists have also complained of mounting self-censorship since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.
The authorities have blocked access to many Internet sites and drawn up a plan to introduce mandatory filtering for Internet users, with the stated aim of shielding children from harmful content.