17 november 2005

Turkey and Denmark Clash Again over Freedom of Speech (Law & Justice)

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan boycotted a joint press conference with his Danish counterpart in protest at the presence of a Kurdish TV station Roj TV, highlighting European values on free speech. Mr. Erdogan was visiting Denmark as the first stop in a tour around EU capitals to discuss Turkey's EU membership.

Turkey has repeatedly asked Denmark to close down the TV channel, which broadcasts to Kurds in Denmark. Turkey claims it is financed by the PKK, which is on the EU's list of terrorist organisations. Danish police have not found evidence of links to forbidden organisations so far.

The Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reacted: "There is a fundamental difference between Turkey and Denmark in matters of freedom of expression" and added that he regretted that Mr Erdogan did not attend the press conference, but pointed out that excluding the Kurdish TV-station from the conference would have violated the principles of freedom of expression in the EU.

This is the second recent clash between Denmark and Turkey about the press freedom. In September, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons about the prophet Muhammad. According to the Islam it is blasphemous to make images of the prophet. Muslim fundamentalists threatened to bomb the paper’s offices and kill the cartoonists. It escalated into a major international conflict between Denmark and the Muslim world. Mr. Erdogan even stressed that anti-Islamism must be treated as a crime similar to anti-Semitism. At a meeting of the Eurasian Islamic Council meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said his government added an article to the declaration in the European Council regarding Islamophobia stipulating that anti-Islamism be accepted as a crime against humanity.

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