Monday, May 05, 2014

Qs and As w/US State Dept Spoxperson M.Harie on Turkey-FreedomHouse Report

Daily Press Briefing
Monday, May 5, 2014
1:25 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson

QUESTION:  Turkey?

MS. HARF:  Yes, and then I’m going to you, and then I’m going around.

QUESTION:  Last Thursday there was a Freedom House report released.  Is there any way, first of all, can you tell us how do you view Freedom House reports in general?

MS. HARF:  In general?  Let me see, I have something on that.  Obviously, you saw me last week stand up here and talk a lot about freedom of the press during our Free the Press Week.


MS. HARF:  The Freedom House 2014 report concluded that media freedom hit a decade-long low last year.  We’ve talked about this a lot in this room, whether it’s in Russia, whether it’s in Venezuela, whether it’s in Turkey with YouTube and Twitter.  So we’ve talked about this a lot in this room.  Obviously, we believe it’s an important issue.

QUESTION:  So do you find it credible and something that you referenced to it --

MS. HARF:  The Freedom House report?

QUESTION:  Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF:  Well, it – I mean, I don’t how I would describe it, other than obviously it’s an issue we take very seriously and agree with some of the recommendations in it, or some of the analysis.  I just haven’t seen the whole thing.

QUESTION:  So to Turkey --

MS. HARF:  Uh-huh.

QUESTION:  -- the Turkish media is this year for the first time after about 15 or 20 years now unfree, defined as unfree from partly free.  As the ally of Turkey, how do you view the situation in media freedom in Turkey?

MS. HARF:  Well, I’ve spoken up here quite a bit about, like I just said, Twitter and YouTube and freedom of expression space in Turkey.  We have conveyed our concerns about media freedoms to Turkish authorities and will continue to urge the government to open social media sites and to do better across the board.

QUESTION:  So after this report released there has been a big discussion in Turkey going on, but also the Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu came out over the weekend and stated that this report is “little more than an operation aimed at changing the perception towards Turkey.”  This is quote-unquote.  Do you think there’s an operation in Turkey – in the U.S. and Washington?

MS. HARF:  Absolutely not at all.  Not at all, period.  And what I think would change the way people look at Turkey is if they unblocked YouTube, if they didn’t block Twitter.  I think that’s what drives people other places to say, “Hey, maybe freedom of expression isn’t that great in Turkey right now.”

QUESTION:  So just to follow up:  When the Turkish foreign minister comes out in Turkey and says such a thing, that there is an intentional operation against Turkey’s image, and you are saying that this is very much a impartial report --

MS. HARF:  Absolutely.

QUESTION:  -- how do you think Turkish people – what to believe, whether --

MS. HARF:  I don’t think I speak for the Turkish people writ large up here.

QUESTION:  And the final question --

MS. HARF:  Uh-huh.

QUESTION:  Also, Foreign Minister Davutoglu asked Turkish journalists to reject these report findings.  Do you have any comment to that?

MS. HARF:  I don’t.  Michael.

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