It's not fair to accuse the Turkish government of journalist detentions when it is an ongoing legal issue with possibly many more episodes, Turkish Deputy Premier Bulent Arinc said at an European ministerial meeting on freedom of expression.
Arinc spoke in the Serbian capital Belgrade at a Council of Europe conference on Thursday, explaining legal measures Turkey put in place for facilitating journalists' work and eliminating risks they might encounter in exercising their profession.
Following Arinc's remarks, Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, Head of European Federation of Journalists, criticized the large number of journalists behind bars in Turkey and a life-long prison sentence given to Turkish columnist Fusun Erdogan.
Arinc took the floor again to clarify where the Turkish government stands on the issue, while stressing a distinction, in terms of legal action, between journalistic activities and acts that carry criminal liability.
"A person cannot be granted impunity for the crimes they committed on the basis of their journalist identity," Arinc told the audience. "This is a human being, and thus should be held to account for any crimes they have been convicted of outside the realm of their profession.”
The Deputy Premier noted that detention of journalists constituted a first step in lengthy legal proceedings, with the suspects retaining the capacity to appeal to decisions on different levels, such as at the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
"I believe it's not necessarily fair or right-minded to accuse Turkey for such judicial processes that can take many turns along the way."
Arinc said the sixty-odd detained journalists - out of over a hundred thousand people jailed in Turkey - are suspected of involvement in crimes such as establishing, running or belonging to an armed terrorist organization, attempting to forcibly change the constitutional order or force a government out of power, in addition to attempted manslaughter and illegal possession of arms, among other charges.
"How can we consider these crimes within the same context as the profession of journalism," Arinc said emphatically.
Mortar fired from northern Iraq hits hill in southeastern Hakkari province
Deployment of Turkish army in Qatar is in line with 2014 bilateral cooperation deal, Foreign Ministry spokesman says
Port city's 2 airports witness traffic of over 114,000 flights in April and May, state airport administration figures shows
Turkish president says demands by Saudi-led blockade 'breach of Qatar's sovereignty rights'
Latest operation comes just a day ahead of Eid al-Fitr
Turkish president, prime minister and army chief issue Eid al-Fitr messages
Friday's PKK attack in eastern Bingol province had left the soldier in critical condition
Soldiers injured by improvised explosive in rural area of Bingol's Genc district
Counterterrorism operations in Siirt province leave three terrorists dead, three others injured
BIST 100 index rises 0.11 percent; US dollar/Turkish lira rate stands at 3.5130
Number of properties sold to foreigners surged 10.1 percent year-on-year in May, TurkStat reports
Greece told to respect its Muslim minority after Athens hit out at Quran recital, call to prayer at Istanbul's Hagia Sophia
Beleaguered Gulf state to receive 4,000 tons of food amid ongoing embargo by Arab countries
Index sees decline of 3.8 pct monthly, according to Turkish Statistical Institute