The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on the Turkish government Friday to condemn recent expressions of “Jewish conspiracies” in the Turkish press and by Turkish politicians.
The organization “expressed deep concern over ‘unwarranted and hurtful conspiracy theories’ made by some Turkish politicians and media outlets falsely connecting Jews to the tragic Soma mining accident.”
“The unwarranted and hurtful conspiracy theories in the Yeni Akit newspaper and by MP [Burhun] Kuzu [a senior parliamentarian from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party], which falsely connects Jews to the Soma mine tragedy, have no place in Turkish discourse,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director, adding that “introducing these conspiracy theories disrespects the victims and their families and diverts attention away from the investigation process. It also sends a message to Turkey’s Jewish community which can raise questions about their place in Turkish society.
“We call on Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to publicly condemn the effort to link Jews with this tragedy,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hasan Karakaya, a columnist for the Islamist Yeni Akit newspaper, accused Freedom House of ranking Israel highly in its press freedom reports because its president is Jewish and the organization is funded by Jerusalem, and claimed the press was attacking the PM for the Soma mining accident, which killed hundreds, because the mine owner’s son-in-law is Jewish.
“On May 20, a front page headline in the pro-government Turkish daily Yeni Akit newspaper criticized the owner of the Soma Coal Mine Company for having a Jewish son-in-law, claiming this is why “foreign” media outlets were attacking Erdogan for the tragedy. The headline was followed by a tweet, since deleted, by Burhun Kuzu… who stated that the ‘foreign Jewish lobby pounced on Erdogan because of Soma disaster. But mine owner’s son-in-law is Jewish,’ ” the ADL wrote.
Last week, Erdogan shouted an anti-Israel slur as he was mobbed by angry protesters at the site of the deadly mine blast, local media reported.
“Why are you running away, Israeli spawn?” Erdogan is heard yelling at a protester in video footage circulated by the opposition Sozcu newspaper, using an expression considered a curse in Turkish.
A report from Freedom House this month claimed Turkey had seen the biggest decline in press freedom in Europe.
The US-based media rights watchdog downgraded Turkey’s status from “partly free” to “not free” — putting the EU hopeful in the same category as Libya, South Sudan, Ukraine and Zambia — after it put a record number of journalists behind bars.
Erdogan’s government fiercely rejected the report, accusing Freedom House of orchestrating a campaign to paint Turkey as an authoritarian regime that muzzles the press.
“Could you expect a Freedom House ranking of world media to draft a positive report about Turkey while David Cramer, a ‘Jew’, or James Woolsey, a ‘CIA boss,’ or Donald Rumsfeld, a ‘drug baronm’ are at its helm?” he wrote.
Erdogan ridiculed the organization’s ranking, saying Turkey has less-strict media rules than the United States, Israel and Germany.
Karin Karlekar, project director of the report, rejected the accusations, arguing that director David Kramer had no influence on the long-standing annual survey.
“His religious affiliation is a private matter that has no bearing on his leadership of the organisation,” she told AFP.
“Legal cases and imprisonments have been quite bad (in Turkey) for a number of years. This is the main reason for the downgrade: worsening conditions in 2013 in terms of press freedom.”
Turkey’s government, in power since 2002, has come under fire from rights groups for its crackdown on the media.
Freedom House said with at least 40 journalists behind bars as of December 1, 2013, Turkey remained the world’s leading jailer of journalists.
Erdogan disputed the report’s findings, arguing that only 18 journalists were in prison and none because of their work.
The Turkish strongman has come under heavy criticism from Western politicians and rights groups for launching a wide-ranging crackdown on the Internet that saw Twitter banned for two weeks. The video-sharing site YouTube has also been blocked since the end of March despite two court orders calling for the ban to be lifted.
Last year, the BBC expressed concerns about what it called a campaign launched by Turkish authorities to “intimidate its journalists”.
Journalists have also faced public pressure. A correspondent for Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine this week was hounded out of Turkey after receiving thousands of death threats over an article.