Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2007
In Today's Papers
All papers report ten suspects have been taken into custody in
connection with the killing of three Christians at a Bible
publishing firm in Malatya on Wednesday. Cumhuriyet says police are
investigating ties between the murderers and nationalist/Islamist
groups, especially those in Trabzon, the scene of a Catholic
priest's murder last year and home of several suspects in the Hrant
Dink assassination case. Several dailies report that before the
killings occurred, local newspapers stoked tensions with reports
pointing to an alarming increase in missionary activities in the
President Sezer "denounced in the strongest terms" the murders in
Malatya, saying the massacre could not be justified in any way.
Prime Minister Erdogan said "Using violence in the name of religion
cannot have a religious, humanitarian or legal explanation. Any
kind of fanaticism and intolerance is the enemy of democracy."
Ihsan Ozbek, the head of Turkish Salvation Church organization, has
condemned the killings, saying there was a "medieval witch hunt" for
missionaries in Turkey.
Mainstream or Islamist-oriented, most papers underline the "culture
of intolerance" prevailing in Turkey. Quoting from the 2005 State
Department report on Religious Freedom, the 2006 US Human Rights
Report and the 2006 EU Progress Report on Turkey, Milliyet reports
that "for two years, the US and EU have been warning Turkey in these
reports about the threats against non-Muslims as well as the
negative attitude toward missionary activities." "Who will be the
next target of paranoid attacks against non-Muslims?" asks
mainstream Milliyet columnist Taha Akyol. Liberal Radikal says both
leftist and rightist groups are alarmed at missionary activities in
Turkey despite the reality that over the past seven years, only 344
people out of a total population of 74 million have converted to
Christianity and the total number of missionaries is 50, according
to Turkish Interior Ministry data.
Commentary on the Malatya Killings
In a page one editorial mainstream Milliyet says: "Taliban-like
methods are repeated in a country in the process of becoming an EU
member -- this is the very time to come face to face with our
reality. Before investigating the Malatya murders, we should admit
the existence of a mentality in this country which feeds on bigotry,
intolerance and xenophobia. Missionary activities are still
considered to be negative by a significant number of people and the
issue is misused by some politicians. Turkey's secular character,
if that is real, requires that our Christian citizens be able to
live and disseminate their faith as freely as others. Let's hope
that the terrible murder will bring awareness of intolerance and
will pave the way for correcting it."
Ali Sirmen comments in the leftist-nationalist daily Cumhuriyet:
"The murderers of Malatya are clearly 'made in Turkey' because of
their feelings of hate, xenophobia, and discrimination based on race
and religion. The Minister of Interior must feel very ashamed for
not preventing the development of such a climate. Those who are
responsible for this environment, calling for hate crimes, must feel
responsible and very ashamed. Unfortunately, I don't believe that
Yasin Dogan comments in the Islamist-intellectual Yeni Safak: "There
is nothing wrong with being religious or being nationalist. But it
is very wrong that there are tendencies and provocations leading to
authoritarianism and fascism."
Speculation on Presidential Nominations
All papers continue speculation on various names to be nominated as
presidential candidates, including Foreign Minister Gul, Defense
Minister Vecdi Gonul or deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener.
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Prime Minister Erdogan told the press yesterday his candidate for
president will "surprise everyone." Vatan and Cumhuriyet claim
Erdogan has in mind a woman, State Minister Nimet Cubukcu, for the
post. Mainstream papers also expect Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc
to run if Erdogan and Gul do not.
Ambassador Satterfield Visits Ankara
Cumhuriyet, Radikal, and Yeni Safak report Ambassador Satterfield,
senior Iraq Coordinator, will be in Ankara on Friday for talks with
Turkish Foreign Ministry (MFA) and Turkish General Staff (TGS) on
topics that include the upcoming Iraqi neighbors conference in
Egypt, Iraq, and the fight against terror.
France Sends 'Terror Delegation' to Turkey
Milliyet, Cumhuriyet and Zaman report a French delegation of
terrorism experts, judges, prosecutors and police officers held
meetings in Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir to discuss the
activities of the PKK and leftist-terrorist groups, including
DHKP-C, in Turkey. Zaman comments the delegation came to ease
Turkish reactions to the release of the PKK members detained in
operations in France earlier this year.
NTV (6 a.m.)
- General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the Turkish General Staff, has
dismissed speculation that he was going to issue new messages with
regard to the developments in Turkey during a visit to Ataturk's
house in Thessaloniki. "I do not need to go to Greece to issue any
messages," he said.
- Turkish Union of Chambers (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarciklioglu
said following the election of a president in May, Turkey should
hold early parliamentary elections in July.
- A court in Diyarbakir has suspended the trial procedure of Mayor
Osman Baydemir because it was initiated without obtaining the
necessary permission from the Interior Ministry.
- The IMF said Turkey will become world's 17th biggest economy in
- EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has welcomed the new roadmap
for reforms made public by the Turkish government earlier this week.
- Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Yerevan will insist on the
opening of the Turkey-Armenia border.
- Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has rejected
charges that his country supports the independence aspirations of
- President Bush has unveiled a new package of sanctions against
Sudan for failing to cooperate with the international efforts to end
the crisis in Darfur.